GREENVILLE, N.C. - Part II of the 2014 East Carolina volleyball season preview highlights the defensive specialists and liberos who will take the court for the Pirates in the fall. Head coach Julie Torbett will have four consistent players on defense in returning junior Erika Figueroa, as well as junior transfer Lauren Bewick and incoming freshmen Alex Jessett and Megan Williams.
Figueroa is a co-captain this season after having played in 31 matches last year as a sophomore. She concluded the year with 203 digs to average 2.07 per set to rank fourth on the squad. She also added 16 assists, 11 points, nine service aces and a pair of kills.
The Orlando, Fla., native had a positive season last year as she posted a career-high 20 digs versus conference foe UAB. Figueroa did a good job helping pace the back row for the Pirates as she was part of a defense that recorded 97 digs in the matches against Appalachian State and Campbell to tie for third in the single-game record book for number of digs in a single match.
"Erika played a lot of time the last two years as a defensive specialist," Torbett explained. "She was looking to put on that other jersey by the vacated spot after Shelby Beasley graduated. She's been playing really solid and has worked out really hard this summer."
Bewick is the other upperclassman in the back row for the Pirates. She is a product out of D.H. Conley High School and returns to Greenville after playing two seasons at Campbell where she was the starting libero. At Campbell, Bewick saw action in all 31 matches for the Camels and finished the year with 230 digs to average 1.85 per set. Her best match of the year came against Georgetown when she dished out a game-high 23 digs en route to helping the Camels secure a 3-2 victory over the Hoyas.
Jessett and Williams round out the back row possibilities for the Pirates. Jessett is a native of Katy, Texas where she competed for the Houston Juniors Club Team under head coach Sharon Nelson. She was named the defensive Most Valuable Player in 2011 and garnered Houston Skyline Junior defensive MVP accolades as well. She qualified for the USAV Junior Nationals in 2011 and 2013, and trained under former Olympian Tara Cross-Battle.
"Alex is a really solid, really gritty, gutsy kind of player," Torbett said. "Megan is also a great addition to our team. She will compete for playing time in the back row as well. I think all four are going to see time in the back row."
Williams is the newest addition to the squad as she was selected during open tryouts on August 13. She played high school volleyball at Durham School of the Arts where she earned all-conference honors as a senior and was a two-time Most Valuable Player as a junior and senior. She was named to the Graham Invitational All-Tournament Team during her sophomore and junior seasons. She also saw action for the North Carolina Elite Volleyball 18 Black Club team under head coach Shaun Dyk and helped her squad finish second at the 2014 Queen City Classic.
"I'm really excited for the competition for those spots and what each player brings to the court," Torbett added.
The Pirates will open the 2014 season Friday, September 5 when they host the East Carolina Invitational. ECU will take on Tennessee Tech at 1 p.m., before going up against Norfolk State Friday at 7 p.m., and Morgan State Saturday at 7 p.m.