Willis Sets ECU Record in 3-2 Loss at Southern Miss
Oct. 28, 2012
HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Junior Nicole Willis set a new ECU single-game record with 32 kills in East Carolina’s 3-2 (25-20, 25-23, 20-25, 21-25, 11-15) loss at Southern Miss on Sunday.
Willis bested the previous record by one which was set in 2007 by former Pirate Kelly Wernert in a match against UNC Wilmington. In addition to her match-high 32 kills, Willis added 15 digs for her team-best 10th double-double of the year. She finished the match with a pair of blocks, two aces and 35.0 points. Junior Shelby Beasley etched her name into the single-game record book as well after turning in a 29-dig performance which ties her for third in the ECU annals.
Beasley and Willis were not the only Pirates to turn in exceptional performances at Southern Miss (8-16, 4-8 C-USA). Virginia Fitch notched 10 kills for her first double-digit kill match of the year. Fitch hit .273 with six total blocks in the contest. Whitney Campbell also registered her first double-digit kill performance of the season with 10 kills, six digs and a pair of block assists. Zarah Cecich tallied 55 assists, six digs, three blocks and a kill, while Kelly Derby finished the match with eight kills, six total blocks, three digs and a .222 clip. Hannah Allgood was solid on defense as she marked 15 digs, while Erika Figueroa posted eight.
East Carolina (1-22, 0-12 C-USA) opened the match with a 17-kill performance in the first set. The Pirate’s played the Golden Eagles tough and the two squads tied the set eight times and exchanged leads five times before ECU broke an 8-8 tie forcing Southern Miss into back-to-back attack errors as Cecich and Fitch collected the block assist. The Pirates held a close lead for the remainder of the set and ended the game on a 3-0 run to take a 25-20 win.
The Pirates’ offense continued its balanced attack in the second set as the visitors took a 7-0 lead to start the game. Despite the lead, the Golden Eagles fought back and eventually tied the game at 20-all. However, the Pirates refused to give up and regained the lead on a pair of Southern Miss errors. Down by two (22-20), the Golden Eagles rallied again and managed to even the score at 22, but the determined Pirates reclaimed the lead on a Willis kill and eventually took game two by a score of 25-23.
ECU took a two-game lead into the locker room at the break which marked the first time the Pirates led by a pair of sets since Sept. 15, when East Carolina dropped a 3-2 decision to Coastal Carolina.
Southern Miss came back from the break in action determined to avoid a sweep and the Golden Eagles quickly took a 4-0 lead in set three. The Pirates, still on the adrenaline rush from the first two sets, came from behind and tied the set at 16 on a service ace by Willis. Although the Golden Eagles answered with a kill of their own, ECU would not let the hosts’ lead last for long as the Pirates came back with a kill off the hands of Willis to even the score at 17. Southern Miss, however, would use a 5-0 run to take a 22-17 lead and eventually win game three, 25-20.
Set four was much like set three, as the Golden Eagles took an early 3-0 lead on the Pirates. In this game, however, ECU would tie the set much sooner and battle with Southern Miss throughout. The set was a back and forth affair which saw nine ties and four lead changes before the Golden Eagles broke a 20-20 tie and closed out the set on a 5-1 run to win, 25-21, and send the match into a fifth and final set.
In the deciding game, Southern Miss jumped out to a 3-0 advantage and never looked back. The Golden Eagles led the entire set and although the Pirates fought hard, ECU was never able to take a lead. Southern Miss finished the set with eight kills, while the defense limited East Carolina to a .000 hitting percentage. The Golden Eagles won the final set by a score of 15-11.
The Pirates will continue their road swing with a Friday night conference contest at UAB. The match is scheduled for 8 p.m.