Transfer Students Join Volleyball Program
Jan. 13, 2012
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Nicole Willis and Katie Gratale, transfer student-athletes from LSU and UNC Wilmington respectively, will enroll at East Carolina and compete for the Pirates according to an announcement from head coach Pati Rolf Friday.
The pair will play for ECU beginning with the 2012 season. Willis has two years of collegiate eligibility remaining while Gratale owns three.
After earning valuable experience as a freshman at LSU in 2010, Willis began to flourish her sophomore campaign. She amassed 176 kills and 55 blocks last season and posted double-figure kill efforts five times - including 11 in the 3-0 win over Arkansas which clinched the Tigers' seventh-straight SEC West championship. In conference play, Willis recorded 128 kills and 33 blocks with a career-high 13 kills in a five-set win at Ole Miss. Her personal-best block total occurred in non-conference play as she racked up six versus Miami.
Willis, a 6-2 right side hitter, played her prep volleyball at Broughton High School in Raleigh where she was coached by Tim Meserth. She was ranked as the No. 66 recruit in the nation, according to PrepVolleyball.com, and was part of the LSU recruiting class slotted No. 27 in the country. Willis, also recruited by Georgia, Houston, Oregon, South Carolina, notched All-Conference First-Team and picked up Chapel Hill Classic All-Tournament Team accolades from 2007-09. Additionally, her team won the CAP7 conference championship in 2006 and 2008. During her high school career, she posted 1,012 kills, 767 digs, 142 blocks and 125 service aces.
"We are extremely excited to have Nicole join our Pirate family," Rolf remarked. "She is a North Carolina girl with great ties in the state. She is a tremendous worker and has a wonderful report with her teammates. One of the qualities she will bring is a strong desire to serve her community. Nicole wants to make a contribution to East Carolina not only athletically, but on an academic and community level as well. I cannot say enough how excited the staff, as well as the team, is to have her join us. Nicole's great potential to help this program should excite the Pirate Nation."
Willis played her club volleyball for NC Elite, which competed in the USA Volleyball (USAV) Junior Olympics Tournament from 2005-09 and finished tied for 11th in the American Division in 2009. She also starred for the USAV High Performance Girls Youth National A2 squad in 2008. Off the court, she was a member of her high school service club and honor roll.
Gratale, a 5-8 defensive specialist from Hampstead, N.C., played in seven matches for UNC Wilmington during her freshman season (2011). She picked up 12 digs and two aces in 20 sets with a season-high four digs in the match against North Florida.
"Katie will be a bright spot for us on many levels," Rolf said. "First, she has a love for ECU. She possesses a bright and sunny personality and gets along with everyone she meets. Her academic standards are very high and that is something in which this team takes great pride. Additionally, Katie is a tremendous worker who wants to excel for her teammates. She is a local girl with a solid support system in place that can only help enhance our program's visibility."
A four-year letterwinner at Topsail High School, Gratale led the Pirates to three conference titles. She was a four-time All-Conference and All-Area selection as well as the three-time league player-of-the-year. Gratale earned 2009 Wilmington Star News All-Area Player-of-the-Year accolades and was a three-year member of the North Carolina High Performance Team.