ECU Sweeps NC Central, 3-0, at Phoenix Classic

UABSPORTS.COM Kierra Lee-Dunson
Kierra Lee-Dunson

Sept. 13, 2013

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ELON, N.C. -For the first time since 2009, the East Carolina volleyball team has collected more than two wins in a season as the Pirates swept NC Central, 3-0 (25-16, 25-13, 25-19), for their third victory of the year. Under the direction of first-year head coach Julie Torbett, the ECU volleyball team hit .228 in the contest and limited the Eagles to a .000 attack percentage.

"One of our goals this season was to win more matches than we did in years before," Torbett said. "We accomplished that tonight. But, we still have more goals that we set for ourselves that we would like to achieve."

The Pirates (3-5) were led offensively by senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis and sophomore outside hitter Torre Blake who registered nine and seven kills, respectively. Willis finished the match hitting .300 with four digs, two blocks, a pair of assists and a service ace, while Blake posted an impressive.462 attack percentage (seven kills, one error, 13 attempts). Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson had four kills on seven attempts with just one miscue to hit .429 in the contest, while freshman Ashley McRae contributed a match-high .750 hitting percentage with three kills on four attempts.

Senior libero Shelby Beasley was solid on defense as she collected a match-high nine digs in the victory. Junior Zarah Cecich ran a balanced offense as she tallied a match-high 19 assists. Cecich also notched four digs, three kills, and one block assist.

"We had a lot of solid performances," Torbett said. "Nicole (Willis) played really well. She led the team with nine kills and hit .300. Ashley McRae had a great showing hitting .750. Kierra (Lee-Dunson) and Torre (Blake) also had strong efforts offensively hitting .429 and .462."

East Carolina got things going quickly in the first set as the Pirates took an early 3-0 lead over the Eagles (0-10). After breaking a 3-3 tie on a kill from Willis, ECU went on a 7-1 run to take a 10-4 advantage. The 7-1 run sparked an offensive surge for the Pirates and ECU extended its lead to as many as eight points on four separate occasions before winning the set by nine (25-16).

The Pirates hit .333 in the second frame and forced the Eagles into a negative attack percentage as they hit -.125 in the set. ECU's offense only committed three attack errors, while NC Central's collected seven miscues and just four kills. After an early 2-2 tie, Willis gave the Pirates the lead for good after she knocked down a kill to put ECU up 3-2. East Carolina enjoyed a sideout percentage of 84 in the frame and cruised to a 25-13 win.

The third and final set was the most competitive as ECU and NC Central tied the set four times and exchanged leads twice early in the frame. After breaking a 4-4 tie, the Pirates took a nine-point lead on two separate occasions, however, the Eagles would not back down. NC Central threatened and came within five (21-16), but ECU managed to hault the Eagles' rally and take a 25-19 victory and earn the sweep, 3-0.

NC Central's Kalin Russell led the Eagles with six kills on 10 attempts with just two errors to hit .400. Alice Genna led the defense with nine digs to go along with eight assists, two block assists and a kill, while Melissa Rabell Pineiro also added eight assists in the loss.

"Getting the first win of the tournament started us off right," Torbett said. "We have two tough matches tomorrow, so starting off with a win is important. It's definitely a confidence booster."

The Pirates will wrap up the Phoenix Classic Saturday, September 14, with a pair of matches against Gardner-Webb at 10 a.m., and host, Elon, at 7 p.m. Live stats will be available for all of the matches.