Feb. 11, 2014
GREENVILLE, N.C. - The Pirate volleyball team has announced the signing of Sydney Darden, Nicole Higgins, Alex Jessett and Ashton Mares on Tuesday. The incoming freshman tandem of Jessett and Mares will begin attending East Carolina University in the fall, while Darden and Higgins are already on campus according to an announcement by head coach Julie Torbett.
Darden, Higgins, Jessett and Mares will join a squad that won 13 matches last year to mark the first time in five years that ECU volleyball collected double-digit wins in a season. Darden, a Virginia Beach, Va.,native, is transferring from UNC Greensboro and will play outside hitter. Higgins comes to ECU as a redshirt sophomore as the opposite hitter is transferring from Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla. Jesset is a freshman libero out of Katy, Texas and Mares is a freshman outside hitter who hails from Fort Collins, Colo.
Sydney Darden, Sophomore, Outside Hitter, 5-8, Virginia Beach, Va., Kellam High School (UNC Greensboro)
Darden comes to East Carolina as a transfer from UNC Greensboro where she saw action in 52 sets as a freshman. She finished the year third on the team with 2.33 kills per set after knocking down a total of 121 kills. She also contributed 48 digs (0.92 d/s) and 17 total blocks (0.33 b/s). She finished her freshman season with 137.5 points and seven service aces. Prior to her year at UNCG, Darden was a four-year letterwinner at Kellam High School where she helped the Knights to three-straight Virginia AAA state championships from 2010-12. During her four years at Kellam, the Knights accumulated a record of 109-11. As a senior, Darden helped Kellam to a 32-2 overall record and a No. 1 Virginia state ranking after hitting .348 with 306 kills to go along with 263 digs, 61 aces, and 28 total blocks. She was also a member of the Coastal Virginia Volleyball Club as she helped the squad capture the 18 open division title at the 2013 Capitol Hill Classic.
Coach Torbett on Darden:
"It is nice to get a player with a year of Division I playing experience under her belt. Sydney is a feisty player with a heavy arm that is very aggressive on the court. We faced her this year and are glad to have her on our side of the net going into the spring season."
Nicole Higgins, Redshirt Sophomore, Opposite, 6-1, Valrico, Fla., Bloomingdale High School (Hillsborough CC)
Higgins will transfer to ECU from Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla., where she redshirted her first year and helped the Hawks to a 45-5 overall record and an undefeated mark in conference action. Higgins played an integral part in leading the Hawks to the 2013 Suncoast Conference championship and guided her team to the NJCAA championship. While she was at Hillsborough, the Hawks won the Gulf District Championship and the FCSAA State Championships. Higgins finished her junior college career with a First Team All-Conference selection and helped the Hawks earn a No. 3 ranking in the nation. Higgins played prep volleyball at Bloomingdale High School where she was a two-time First Team All-Conference honoree and finished first in the county as well as eighth in the state in total blocks.
Coach Torbett on Higgins:
"Nicole is an experienced player that will provide a strong presence at the net. She knows how hard you need to work to be successful and will bring that work ethic to East Carolina. We are thrilled to have her this spring to replace the void that the five seniors left in the program. She will get immediate playing time and individual training so she will be ready in the fall."
Alex Jessett, Freshman, Libero, 5-6, Katy, Texas, Seven Lakes High School
Jessett comes to East Carolina from the Lone Star State where she competed for the Houston Juniors Club team under head coach Sharon Nelson. While a part of the Houston Juniors, Jessett was named defensive MVP in 2011 and garnered Houston Skyline Juniors defensive team Most Valuable Player honors. A two-time USAV Junior Nationals qualifier, Jessett trained under former Olympian Tara Cross-Battle.
Coach Torbett on Jessett:
"Alex is a solid back row player that is fun to watch. We are impressed with her confidence and consistent play in the backcourt. She has strong verbal skills which allow her to lead the defense. I expect her to contribute very quickly."
Ashton Mares, Freshman, Outside Hitter, 6-0, Fort Collins, Colo., Rocky Mountain High School
Mares is a two-time First Team All-Conference and All-Academic honoree out of Rocky Mountain High School where she was a four-year letterwinner. She finished her senior year with 369 kills (4.5 k/s), a .340 hitting percentage, and added 198 digs, 50 service aces and 38 total blocks. Mares was named C.H.A.M.P. Athlete of the Month in September 2013 and earned All-Tournament Team honors in the Titan Classic. She helped the Lobos to a 10-1 conference record during her senior season as her squad was the Front Range Conference runner up.
Coach Torbett on Mares:
"We are really excited about bringing a player of Ashton's caliber to the program. She is a 6-roation outside hitter that is a workhorse. She will provide us with solid play on the outside next season. She is also an honor student and will set a great example for the freshman coming in to maintain a high level of success in the classroom as well."