ECU stuns Memphis

Published 12:07 pm Monday, November 3, 2014

ECU Athletic Media Relations

MEMPHIS — Junior forward Kendall Frey tied the match in the 78th minute, before scoring a golden goal just 52 seconds into the first overtime to lift the East Carolina women’s soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Memphis in the quarterfinals of the 2014 American Athletic Conference Championship on Sunday afternoon.

Seeded seventh, ECU advances to next Friday’s semifinals in Tampa, Fla., where it will take on host USF at its home venue, Corbett Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., and can be viewed on the American Digital Network.

It was a bit of déjà vu for the Pirates, as Frey was the hero when she scored the game-winning goal in overtime of last year’s 1-0 Conference USA quarterfinal triumph over UTEP.

“After Friday, we had to show a lot of guts. It didn’t look like a normal Sunday game,” head coach Rob Donnenwirth said. “We just never stopped working. When we got the goal late in the second half, it changed everything. They had some chances to make it 2-0, but Erika (Lenns) made some great saves.”

Memphis (9-6-4), seeded second in the tournament, dominated possession from the opening kickoff and continued to make runs into the ECU defense, but the Pirates continued break up passes and clear the ball. The Tigers set up a play across the East Carolina (12-7-1) midfield in the 15th minute, before sending a pass into the goal box where a striker got around her final defender and was tripped from behind to earn a penalty kick. Valerie Sanderson took the free shot and placed it into the bottom left corner for the first goal of the match.

ECU put together some offensive pressure of its own during the waning minutes of the first half, with the best chance to score coming on a corner kick by sophomore forward Lana Spitler at the 40-minute mark. Spitler struck a line drive into the Memphis goal box that went just beyond the reach of Frey’s head and was punched out by Tigers’ goalkeeper Maryse Bard-Martel.

Memphis took its 1-0 lead into halftime, as well as a 9-2 edge in shots and a 5-1 advantage in corner kick opportunities.

East Carolina continued its pressure to start the second, establishing control deep in Tiger territory and earning a pair of corner kicks and close-range chances, but Memphis was able to stall the threats and keep its lead.

The Tigers had several attempts at adding to its lead, but the Pirates remained resilient and were able to take full advantage of a corner kick with just over 12 minutes left in regulation. Spitler placed a high, arching cross into the box from the far corner, where Frey headed and redirected the ball into the back of the net to draw the score even at one apiece.

Both sides assembled final attacking opportunities with respective corner kicks throughout the rest of regulation, but neither team could break the tie as the match moved into overtime.

“Memphis is just so good possessing the ball,” Donnenwirth said. “Going into this game, we debated changing our system, but we decided to stay with what we’ve been doing and it worked. The biggest difference was we were able to get pressure on the ball further up the field. When we were able to get them out of their rhythm and that changed the game a little bit. I was proud of the energy we showed.”

East Carolina started overtime with the ball and after losing possession once, continued to push the ball forward when sophomore midfielder Jenna Geist brought the ball through the middle of the Memphis midfield before sending a pass to senior Brett Thomas along the left side. Thomas made a move to the left and got around her defender, before completing a soft pass with her left foot to a wide open Frey in front of the goal who one-touched Thomas’ service past Bard-Martel for her eighth goal of the season and ninth career game-winning tally.

Frey’s multi-goal performance was the first of her career and marked the third time this season in which she scored goals in back-to-back matches. The Chester Springs, Pa., native also recorded the game-winning goal on ECU’s second strike in Friday’s 3-1 triumph over Houston.

Senior goalkeeper Erika Lenns made three saves and earned her seventh victory of the season in net for ECU.

“I have so much respect for Memphis’ program, as they’ve been a nemesis of ours for years,” Donnenwirth said. “This is the first time this year that we came back from being down a goal. We really battled and did some good things. It was more of their attitude, working hard and pressing starting with the second half.”