Sept. 20, 2013
BOONE, N.C. - The East Carolina volleyball team's defense stepped up and recorded 97 digs to tie for third in the ECU single game record book en route to defeating Appalachian State, 3-2 [ 18-25, 25-19, 14-25, 25-18, 17-15] at the Black and Gold Challenge Friday night. The victory marks the first time the Pirates held off the Mountaineers since 1992.
With the win, the Pirates (7-5) hand Appalachian State (7-5) its first home loss of the season, while ECU extends its winning streak to five matches which is the longest since 2008.
The Pirates turned in numerous career performances as they were led defensively by senior libero Shelby Beasley's season-best 26 digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Erika Figueroa helped pace the back row with a career-best 15-dig effort, while senior Whitney Campbell turned in a career-high 23 digs to go with a career-best 15 kills for a double-double.
Senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis also registered a double-double with a match-high 20 kills and 18 digs to go along with a career-best four total blocks. Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson was a crucial part of the ECU front row as she put up a career-high seven blocks, while freshman Ashley McRae added a career-best five block assists to go with a career-high six kills. Junior Zarah Cecich controlled the offense with a season-best 55 assists as well as eight digs, four kills, three block assists, and one service ace. Sophomore outside hitter Torre Blake turned in a career-best 12-kill, four-block effort while hitting .391 in the victory.
"It's always exciting to open up a tournament with a win," Head coach Julie Torbett said. "Appalachian State had been undefeated at home, so that was a big win. It's always exciting to go into somebody else's home gym and beat them on their home court. They had a great environment, so it was really exciting for the girls.
"We hadn't gone five (sets) this season, so that was really exciting for us," Torbett continued. "It's really important for us to know we can go the whole distance. We dropped the first set, but were able to battle back. That was something important for them to see. It was a hard battle back and forth and we ended up ultimately on top."
Appalachian State (7-5) started the first set with a kill and never looked back as the Mountaineers hit .432 with 18 kills in the frame en route to a 25-18 win. Although the Pirates recorded 14 kills in the first set to hit .278, it was not enough to contain the balanced Mountaineer offense.
East Carolina fought back in the second set and used a 9-1 run to turn a four-point deficit (10-4) into a four-point advantage (15-11). Despite the Mountaineers' attempts, ECU's offense held Appalachian State at a distance until the hosts went on a 5-0 run to take a 19-17 lead on the Pirates, forcing East Carolina to call a timeout. Following the break in action, the Pirates closed out the set on an 8-0 run, which was highlighted by three block assists by Cecich and Lee-Dunson along with a pair of kills off the hands of latter, to win the second frame by a score of 25-19.
The third set was all Appalachian State as the Mountaineers hit .270 in the frame and knocked down 14 kills, while limiting the Pirates to a mere .097 hitting percentage. Despite the Pirates' efforts, the Mountaineers used an 8-0 run to extend a five-point lead (16-11) to a 12-point advantage (23-11) en route to claiming the set by a score of 25-14.
The Pirates managed to bounce back in the fourth set as they hit .290, their highest attack percentage of the match, while the defense held the Mountaineers to a .118 hitting percentage. ECU put together a pair of 4-1 runs forcing Appalachian State to call a timeout as the Pirates' led 17-13. Following the break in action, the two teams battled, but the Pirates came out on top 25-18.
In the fifth and final set, the two squads fought through seven ties before the Pirates edged out the Mountaineers, 17-15. ECU hit .211 in the frame the Pirate defense was solid once again as it held Appalachian State to just .089 hitting.
"I thought it was an amazing defensive effort on our part," Torbett said. "We were also really strong at the net, which is your front line of defense. So we're not just strong in the back row, we're also strong in the front row and had 13.0 team blocks. I'm really proud of their defensive effort."
East Carolina concludes the Black and Gold Challenge Saturday, September 21, with matches against Denver and UT Arlington at 10 a.m., and 4 p.m., respectively. Live stats will be available for all of the matches.