Pirate Volleyball to Host East Carolina Classic

UABSPORTS.COM Shelby Beasley
Shelby Beasley

Sep 5, 2013

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -ECU volleyball will play its first home contest of the 2013 season on Friday when the Pirates host the East Carolina Classic at Minges Coliseum. The tournament will run from September 6-7 and will feature ECU, The Citadel, Loyola Chicago and Morgan State. The Pirates will take on The Citadel Friday, September 6, at 7 p.m., before taking on Morgan State and Loyola on Saturday, September 7, at 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.

The home opener against The Citadel is Fan Appreciation Night and fans who bring their football ticket stub from the Thursday, September 5, game against Florida Atlantic will receive free admission. Additionally, the first 150 fans will receive a free ECU fan T-shirt.

The Pirates Host the East Carolina Classic in Home Opener
ECU will play its first home contest of the 2013 season on Friday when the Pirates host the East Carolina Classic at Minges Coliseum. The tournament will run from September 6-7 and will feature ECU, The Citadel, Loyola Chicago and Morgan State. The Pirates will take on The Citadel Friday, September 6 at 7 p.m., before taking on Morgan State and Loyola Saturday, September 7 at 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.

The Series vs. The Citadel
The Pirates and the Bulldogs will face off for just the second time in program history. ECU leads the all-time series 1-0 after sweeping The Citadel, 3-0 (15-3, 15-4, 15-4), in 1999 at the Microtel/Winthrop Invitational in Rock Hill, S.C.

The Series vs. Morgan State
East Carolina and the Bears of Morgan State will meet for the sixth time in program history and the Pirates lead the all-time series, 3-2. The match-up marks the first meeting since 2008 when ECU swept Morgan State, 3-0 (25-13, 25-17, 25-18), at the East Carolina Invitational. The Bears are looking for their first victory over the Pirates since 1999, when they defeated ECU, 3-1 (11-15, 15-11, 15-13, 15-3) in Baltimore, Md.

The Series vs. Loyola
ECU and Loyola Chicago will go head-to-head for the first time in program history Saturday, September 7 at the East Carolina Classic. The Pirates and Ramblers will close out the tournament with a 7 p.m. match.

About the Pirates
East Carolina started the 2013 season on the road at the Wake Forest Deacon Invitational. The Pirates struggled at the tournament as they were unable to collect a victory going 0-3 in Winston-Salem, N.C. ECU suffered three sweeps to host Wake Forest, UNC Greensboro, and East Tennessee State. Despite the Pirates woes, senior defensive specialist/libero Shelby Beasley was consistent all weekend as she came away with an All-Tournament Team selection after recording 27 digs to average 3.00 per set. Offensively, senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis leads the squad with 31 kills (3.44 per set). The Raleigh, N.C., native has also tallied 15 digs (1.67 per set), seven total blocks (0.78), two service aces and one assist on the year. Over the weekend, junior Zarah Cecich and freshman Bella Borgiotti shared setter duties as the duo combined for 72 assists. Cecich finished the tournament with 35 helpers (6.17 per set), while Borgiotti notched 37 (5.00 per set). At the net, sophomore Kierra Lee-Dunson and senior Virginia Fitch have each posted six blocks. Lee-Dunson is averaging 1.00 blocks per set to lead ECU, and Fitch is averaging 0.67 and is the only Pirate to have put up a solo block thus far. As a team, East Carolina is averaging 11.44 digs per set and 8.44 assists per set. The Pirates have got off to a rough start offensively as they are hitting .063 on the year.

Scouting the Bulldogs
The Citadel is looking for its first win of 2013 after starting the year off 0-3 at the USF Tournament in Tampa, Fla. The Bulldogs dropped three 0-3 contests to host South Florida, Ball State and Austin Peay. This season, they are led by Ise d'Angelo and Bailey Kernodle who each have accumulated a team-high 14 kills. d'Angelo also has posted 10 digs, two service aces and one block assist, while Kernodle has tallied five digs, four block assists, and an assist. Erin Bucherl leads the squad with 42 digs to average 4.67 per set. Sophomore setter Rachel Keefer is the Bulldogs' setter as she has posted 39 assists to average 6.50 assists per set. Keefer has also contributed 12 digs and one block assist. The Citadel is hitting .087 as a team and is averaging 12.78 digs per set.

Scouting the Bears
Morgan State comes to Greenville looking for its first win of the 2013 season as it started the year 0-3 at the Arizona Invitational over the weekend. The Bears dropped three 0-3 contests to host Arizona, No. 20 Kansas, and Central Arkansas. Janelle Wilson and Zuri Smith lead the team with 17 and 16 kills, respectively. Wilson averages 1.89 kills per set and is hitting .256, while Smith averages 1.78 kills per set. Defensively, Samantha Prescott leads the Bears with 26 digs (2.89 per set). Hot on her heels is Tamara Leslie who averages 2.33 digs per set and has amassed 21 digs on the year. Ngebui (Natalie) Chefeh is the squad's setter as she has totalled 55 assists for an average of 6.11 per set. As a team, Morgan State is hitting a mere .011 and is averaging 11.3 digs per set.

Scouting the Ramblers
Loyola enters the East Carolina Classic with a 2-2 record this season after splitting a four-game tournament at the Toledo Blue/Gold Volleyball Invitational to open the 2013 campaign. The Ramblers kicked off the year with a five-set win over Eastern Illinois, before dropping a 3-2 contest to host Toledo on the first day of the invitational. LUC split the second day of the tournament with a sweep of Marist followed by a 3-0 loss to West Virginia. Morgan Reardon leads the offensive attack with 51 kills (3.19 per set) and has added eight digs, six total blocks and two assists on the year. Brittany Brown, a sophomore setter, leads the Ramblers with 155 assists to average 9.69 per set. Defensively, Loyola is led by Stephanie Kinane's 68 digs (4.25 per set). As a team the Ramblers are hitting .186 and average 12.00 kills per set. Loyola has posted 13.38 digs per set and 11.00 assists per set this season.

Where There's a Willis There's a Way
Senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis led the Pirates offensively last season and has gotten off to the same start this year as she owns a team-best 31 kills to average 3.44 per set. The Raleigh, N.C., native has also contributed 15 digs (1.67 per set), a team-high seven blocks (0.78 per set), two aces and one assist in three matches for the Pirates. She is the only player on ECU to have collected double digit kills thus far, as she tallied 13 against UNC Greensboro and 12 versus East Tennessee State.

Helping Hands
This season East Carolina is platooning junior Zarah Cecich and freshman Bella Borgiotti at setter. The duo have combined for 72 assists in the first three matches of the season. Over the weekend, Borgiotti tallied 37 helpers, while Cecich notched 35. Borgiotti, a Vienna, Va., native, is averaging 5.00 assists per set and Cecich, who is from Crown Point, Ind., has averaged 6.17 per set.

Can You Dig It?
Senior libero Shelby Beasley leads ECU with 27 digs and is averaging 3.00 digs per set. Right behind her is senior outside hitter Whitney Campbell who has amassed 20 digs this season to average 2.22 per set. The pair have helped contribute to the Pirates' team average of 11.44 digs per set through three matches.

Block Party
Nicole Willis, Virginia Fitch and Kierra Lee-Dunson are the Pirates' leaders at the net. The trio recorded 19 total blocks at the Wake Forest Deacon Invitational as Willis posted seven, while Fitch and Lee-Dunson each added six. Fitch, a senior middle hitter, is the only Pirate to have tallied a solo block on the year. As a team, ECU has collected 16.0 total blocks as the Pirates have collected one solo block and 30 block assists.

New Leader
Head volleyball coach Julie Torbett, who was hired in February, is the 12th head coach in ECU volleyball history. Torbett came to ECU after a two-year stint at Winthrop where she guided the Eagles to a 20-8 Big South Conference record and a 34-24 overall mark. Prior to her time in Rock Hill, S.C., Torbett was at the helm of the UNC Asheville women's volleyball program where she led the Bulldogs to 304 wins in 17 seasons from 1994-2011. She led Asheville to a pair of Big South regular-season championships, a No. 10 ranking in the NCAA South Region, and was named Big South Conference Coach-of-the-Year on two occasions (2002 and 2009). In 19 years as a head coach at the Division I level, Torbett has accumulated 338 career wins to become the winningest coach in Big South volleyball history. The former Penn State middle back and defensive specialist under legendary head coach Russ Rose helped the Nittany Lions to four Atlantic 10 championships, four NCAA Regional appearances, and a perfect 31-0 conference record before earning her degree in exercise and sport science in 1990.

Welcome Back
2013 brings back 10 Pirate student-athletes from last season including senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis and senior defensive specialist/libero Shelby Beasley. Willis, was the team's leader in almost every offensive category as she finished the year with 3.76 kills per set, 2.65 digs per set, 0.51 blocks per set and 0.26 service aces per set. Beasley led the Pirates with 430 digs to average 4.34 per set and added 22 aces (0.22 per set). Also returning to the friendly confines of Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum is senior outside hitter Whitney Campbell who registered 122 kills (1.34 per set), 126 digs (1.38 per set), 37 total blocks (0.41 per set) and 146.0 points as a junior. Junior setter Zarah Cecich is another of the Pirates' 10 returnees. The Crown Point, Ind., native concluded her sophomore season with a team-best 395 assists to average 7.31 assists. Cecich also added 52 digs, 30 kills, 11 total block and eight service aces.

The Freshman Class
The Pirates signed four incoming freshman over the off season in Bella Borgiotti, Dayna Kramer, Ashley McRae, and Halee Wright. Borgiotti comes to Greenville after playing four years at George C. Marshall High School where she was named the team MVP as a senior setter. She also gained experience playing club volleyball for the Virginia Elite Vipers. Kramer is a three-time district champion out of Ronald Reagan High School in San Antonio, Texas who plays opposite. She is a four-time academic all-district honoree and led the Rattlers to the Pearland Championships in her senior year. McRae is a middle hitter out of Bethesda Chevy Chase High School were she posted 117 kills as a senior to rank second on the team. After concluding the 2012 season with 50 solo blocks and a .389 hitting percentage, McRae was nominated for the County's Senior All-Star game and was a Gazette Honorable Mention selection. Wright, a defensive specialist, played four years at Reynold High School and garnered first team all-conference honors as a senior. She was also named MVP at the end of her senior season.

The "New" Conference USA
Conference USA was one of the many conferences that saw realignments over the summer. July 1, 2013 marked the addition of Charlotte, FIU, Florida Atlantic, LA Tech, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Old Dominion, and UTSA to C-USA. While the conference expanded with the eight new member institutions, it also parted ways with Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF as all four joined the American Athletic Conference. 2013 will mark the last year of ECU's affiliation with Conference USA as the Pirates will join the American Athletic Conference beginning next season.

Coming Up...
Following the East Carolina Classic, the Pirates will play a non-conference match at Campbell on Tuesday, September 10 at 7 p.m. The match will mark the 47th meeting in program history for the two teams. ECU leads the Camels 33-8 in the all-time series.