Senior Britney Roper was one of two Pirates to post a match-high 13 kills Friday against Gardner-Webb
Aug. 26, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Two seniors led the way on offense with double-digit kill performances Friday as East Carolina opened its 2011 campaign with a 3-1 (25-20, 16-25, 25-20, 25-21) win over Gardner-Webb at Minges Coliseum. The Pirates have now captured two consecutive home contests dating back to a 3-2 victory against Marshall in last year's home finale.
"It was a great win and a fresh new start for our team," head coach Pati Rolf said. "Thanks go out to Gardner-Webb for traveling down here and playing this match. We hope everyone stays safe during the storm and the women look forward to returning Sunday for practice."
Jackie Varnum and Britney Roper produced 13 kills each while sophomore Shelby Beasley, earning the starting nod at the libero position, racked up 17 digs to pace the back row. Falling just short of a double-double, senior Amanda Lutzow collected 10 digs to go along with eight kills and a career-best five blocks.
Sophomore Kasey Kavanaugh ran the offense to the tune of 35 assists and also recorded a career-high two aces as Roper contributed three scores from the service line. Varnum turned in the most efficient hitting effort by an ECU player, committing just four errors on 26 attempts for a percentage of .346 which complemented a team-high six blocks.
The Bulldogs put down 42 kills as compared to 41 for the Pirates, but East Carolina held the upper hand in hitting percentage with a .101 mark (.074 for the Bulldogs). Gardner-Webb also posted more digs (62-50) and total blocks (12.0-11.0).
Three Bulldog attack errors helped ECU to a 5-1 lead in the first frame, but Gardner-Webb drew within 7-5 on a Roper miscue. More offensive trouble for the visitors allowed the Pirates to take a five-point lead at 11-6, however, the Bulldogs came within one when a Kavanaugh ball-handling error put the score at 14-13. East Carolina eventually stretched its advantage to 19-15 and would not relinquish control of the set - scoring the last three points after Gardner-Webb cut its deficit to 22-20.
The Bulldogs jumped ahead 5-2 in the second interval and would force Pirate timeouts at 12-7 and 16-10. ECU rallied with four-straight scores thanks to a Roper kill and Kavanaugh ace, leading Gardner-Webb to call its first timeout, but the visitors scored three consecutive points out of the break and kept the Pirates at a comfortable distance the rest of the way.
Looking to seize control of the match out of intermission, the squads battled to tie scores of 6-6 and 9-9 before a pair of kills and an East Carolina attack error allowed the Bulldogs to push ahead by three. The Pirates would respond with a 5-1 run capped off by a Varnum kill, but a Laura Wilcox kill would knot the score at 17. Another ace by Kavanaugh afforded ECU a 20-17 advantage after a pair of kills from Roper and Lutzow, serving as the deciding point-streak in the set as the Pirates out-scored Gardner-Webb 5-3 to end the frame and seize a 2-1 match lead.
An entertaining fourth set, which featured 11 ties and six lead changes, began as a struggle with the teams trading blows on the way to a 14-14 deadlock. Rolf called a timeout when a Carol Solano kill and Whitney Campbell attack error pushed the visitors in front, but the Bulldogs kept pushing with a 4-1 run which put them ahead 20-15. Another timeout seemed to refocus the home side as East Carolina blitzed Gardner-Webb with a match-clinching 10-1 run. Roper and Lutzow would end the proceedings with an ace and solo block, respectively.
After opening the season at home, ECU takes to the road for 11 matches, beginning next weekend at the Holiday Inn Jefferson Cup in Charlottesville, Va. The Pirates will take on host Virginia Friday at 11 a.m., before returning that day to face Long Island at 5 p.m.