2011 East Carolina Volleyball Outlook
Aug. 23, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. - The 2011 edition of the East Carolina volleyball team has something to prove. Ask any coach in any sport around the NCAA and he or she would tell you the combination of eight newcomers, six of them freshmen, preseason injuries to four starters and a modestly tough nonconference schedule is a recipe for struggle.
Heading into this season, the Pirates have the luxury of returning nearly their entire roster - including four seniors who will be expected to provide sound leadership. Stripping everything down to sheer numbers, ECU welcomes back players that accounted for 97 percent of its kills, assists and total blocks as well as 83 percent of its digs.
It is said an athlete experiences the most improvement from his or her freshman to sophomore seasons. A young group with only two returning scholarship players fought to keep its head above water numerous times in 2010 but a thrilling 3-2 victory over Conference USA rival Marshall in the final home contest displayed the potential and talent residing within head coach Pati Rolf's charges.
With another year of experience under their belts, the Pirates are poised to learn from and improve on last season's results.
With two skilled veterans among their ranks, the outside hitters look to increase their offensive output while continuing to provide solid blocking support. Seniors Amanda Lutzow and Britney Roper combined for nearly half of the Pirates' kills last season (424 of 993). Lutzow also produced a team second-best 257 digs as part of five double-doubles, cementing her status as both an offensive threat and defensive anchor. Roper's 6-3 frame should also challenge any opposing block.
A pair of sophomores rounds out the group, as Hannah Allgood and Whitney Campbell continue to develop at the position. Both athletes bring an aggressive, hard-hitting style to the court and improved significantly by the time the 2010 campaign closed. Allgood also proved a stout blocking force, helping ECU to a 3-2 win over Binghamton with 10 total stuffs. Meanwhile, Campbell played in the most sets of any freshman last season (86) while ranking third on the squad in solo blocks and fourth in kills, kills per set and points.
The Pirates sport two dynamic players at the middle hitter position who have proven some of the top blocking athletes in C-USA. Redshirt junior Kelly Derby and senior Jackie Varnum posted 2010 block totals of 93 and 84, respectively, while Derby matched the top single-match total in the league with 11 against Rutgers. It was also the most of any conference athlete in a four-set match.
After a strong showing during the spring practice period, Varnum is set to enjoy a productive final campaign. She was one of two Pirates (Roper) last season to play in every match and set, leading the squad in hitting percentage, solo blocks and points while ranking second in total blocks and blocks per set. Varnum was also third in kills and kills per set, representing one of three ECU athletes to amass at least 200 kills. She tallied double-digit kills in five matches, including a career-high 18 at UAB, and racked up the sixth-highest overall single-match hitting percentage in C-USA when she put down 12 kills on 17 attempts with no errors versus the Scarlet Knights.
Even after missing the first three matches of the season, Jones led the team in digs with 330, an average of 3.4 per set. Overall, that mark was the 12th-highest in the league. However, she showed marked improvement when conference play began, entering the top 10 of the C-USA individual rankings and checking in at ninth with a 4.12 mark. Jones was a main factor in the 3-2 win over Marshall, collecting a career-best 28 digs and falling just one short of the program single-match record. She recorded double-digit dig totals in 15 outings, including four with 20 or more, and posted the fifth-highest three-set total in the league with 24 at home against Houston.
As a freshman, Beasley was offered the chance to display her talents right away, starting the first eight matches of the campaign as the Pirates' libero while earning 14 total starts. She finished fourth on the squad (first among freshmen) with 176 digs while producing double-digit digs in five of her first seven matches and eight overall. Her best effort occurred against SMU, racking up an impressive 23 digs in the three-set affair.
Kavanaugh's debut in a Pirate uniform was put on hold just days before the season opener when she suffered a hand injury but she recovered to earn a starting nod in the final 26 contests. She led the team with 677 assists and posted at least 41 in four matches, including a season-high 46 in the win over Binghamton. Kavanaugh tallied her first career double-double in the home finale against Marshall as she dished out 41 assists and recorded 10 digs. She is one of the taller setters in the league at 6-2 and used that height to her advantage - producing at least five blocks three times with seven against the Bearcats.
Cecich comes to Greenville out of Crown Point High School in Crown Point, Ind., where she set the program's single-season and career assist records with 763 and 1,642, respectively. Cecich also finished her prep career ranked second at Crown Point in all-time sets played (375) and total blocks (260), as well as fourth in solo blocks (69) and fifth in kills (532). During her final season, she amassed the record 763 assists, 39 aces, 194 digs, 30 solo blocks, 85 total blocks and 79 kills. Cecich was also a member of the basketball and track squads.
As a senior, she led the Bulldog volleyball team to a 25-10 overall record and a 9-4 mark in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) - good for third place. She was named the squad's co-MVP and became the first Crown Point volleyball athlete selected for the Indiana North-South All-Star Game. Cecich subsequently earned All-DAC honors to go along with her nod as MVP at the 2010 Chestertown Tournament, at which Crown Point won the title.
Having been thrown into the starting role with just days to prepare last year, Queck stepped in admirably and served as the Pirates' setter for the first six matches. She dished out a season-best 26 assists against Rutgers and tallied 128 for the year. Queck also turned in her first double-digit dig total with 11 against league foe Houston on Halloween.
A matchup with 2010 national finalist California and 13 home matches await ECU this season as part of its schedule. The slate also features the now annual East Carolina Classic as well as a 20-match league circuit due to the elimination of the Conference USA Tournament last year.
The Pirates serve up the season Aug. 26-27 in Greenville, welcoming Florida Atlantic, Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian to Minges Coliseum for the 2011 East Carolina Classic. ECU will take on the Bulldogs in its opener Friday night before closing out the event the next day. The meeting with the Owls marks the first between the schools.
The next weekend, East Carolina travels north to Charlottesville, Va., for the Jefferson Cup. While in the Commonwealth State, ECU will battle Virginia and Long Island in addition to California. The Bears blew through the NCAA Tournament last season, winning their first five matches 3-0 until dropping a three-set affair to Penn State in the title bout.
Nonconference play continues closer to home Sept. 9-10 as the Pirates head to in-state rival UNC Wilmington's Hanover Hall for the UNCW Beach Bash. Another ACC rival in N.C. State awaits as part of the field which also includes Charleston Southern as well as the host Seahawks.
East Carolina ends the nonleague portion of its slate a week later but also begins league play by taking part in the Thunder Invitational. George Mason and Central Michigan, as well as C-USA rival and host Marshall, comprise the Pirates' competition as the contest against the Thundering Herd will serve as the league opener for both squads.
As instituted by the league last season, ECU will play an opponent consecutive days at the same venue on two occasions. This year, the Pirates host Houston for a pair Oct. 8-9 while they will travel to Rice for two contests Nov. 5-6.
As for the remainder of the C-USA schedule, East Carolina travels to Memphis, UAB, UCF, UTEP, SMU, Tulane and Southern Miss while hosting the Tigers, Blazers, Knights, Miners, Green Wave, Golden Eagles and Tulsa.
The 2011 NCAA Tournament first and second rounds are scheduled for Dec. 3-6 at various sites around the nation while the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas hosts the Final Four two weeks later.