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Baldwin-Tener's first year filled with ups and downs

By By John Swartz, Sports Correspondent
GREENVILLE -- Every athletic team starts a season with goals in mind. The East Carolina women's basketball team is no different, and one of their goals could be realized this weekend. ECU head coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener has her team poised to qualify for the Conference USA Tournament for the first time.
Like any other season on any other team, the Lady Pirates have gone though buildups, letdowns, elation and disappointment. This season has brought more ups and downs than Phil Mickelson during a round of golf.
The Pirates went from a December four-game winning streak with wins against such teams as Alabama and North Carolina A&T to a January four-game losing streak with all losses to conference opponents.
The win against Alabama gave the Pirates the U.S. Cellular Classic championship, a tournament that Minges has hosted for the past two season. Last season, the Pirates went 0-2 and were the last place finishers in their own tournament.
With a roster that is so similar to last year's, several players have upped their play and increased their game impact. Sophomore Jennifer Jackson went from six points-per-game last year to leading the team with just under 18 points-per-game this season. Against Alabama, Jackson turned in one of her best games of the year. She posted 30 points and nine rebounds.
The coaching staff has stressed rebounding and boxing out more than anything this year. ECU, as the smallest team in the league (average height of players) has a positive rebounding margin.
At the start of the season, C-USA released the coach's poll, which showed the ECU women picked to finish last in the standings. With one more game left on the schedule, the Lady Pirates are currently two spots from the bottom and in position to get into post season play for the first time since their days in the CAA.
East Carolina closes its regular season at home today against Southern Mississippi. The game will begin at 2 p.m. at Minges Coliseum. The team will participate in the C-USA tournament, which begins later this week.