Pirate Volleyball Takes on NC Central in Mid-Week Affair

UABSPORTS.COM Zarah Cecich
UABSPORTS.COM
Zarah Cecich
UABSPORTS.COM

Sept. 16, 2013

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The Last Meeting
East Carolina3
North Carolina Central0
September 13, 2013
Elon, N.C.
ECU Sweeps NC Central, 3-0, at Phoenix Classic
For the first time since 2009, the East Carolina volleyball team has collected more than two wins in a season as the Pirates swept NC Central, 3-0 (25-16, 25-13, 25-19), for their third victory of the year. Under the direction of first-year head coach Julie Torbett, the ECU volleyball team hit .228 in the contest and limited the Eagles to a .000 attack percentage.


GREENVILLE, N.C. –Coming off of a trio of sweeps en route to winning the Elon Phoenix Classic, the East Carolina volleyball team looks to continue its winning ways at NC Central Tuesday, September 17, for a mid-week non-conference match. The Pirates and the Eagles will meet at 7 p.m., at McDougal-McLendon Gymnasium in Durham, N.C.

The Match
ECU continues its road swing as the Pirates travel to Durham, N.C., to take on NC Central on Tuesday, September 17, at 7 p.m. The contest will be played at the McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium on the campus of North Carolina Central University. Live audio and video will be available on NCCUEaglePride.com.

The Series
The Pirates and Eagles will meet for just the fourth time in program history, however the match also marks the second meeting within the week as the two teams squared off at the Elon Phoenix Classic over the weekend. ECU leads the all-time series 3-0 after having swept NC Central, 3-0 [25-16, 25-13, 25-19] last Friday. Previously, East Carolina swept the Eagles in 2008, 3-0 [25-18, 25-10, 25-19] and held NC Central off in 1979 by a score of 2-0 [15-6, 15-7].

Last Time Out
The Pirates swept the Elon Phoenix Classic with straight set wins over NC Central, 3-0 [ 25-16, 25-13, 25-19], Gardner-Webb, 3-0 [25-15, 25-23, 25-20], and host Elon, 3-0 [25-23, 25-22, 25-16]. The three consecutive wins marked the first time ECU has recorded three-straight victories since 2009. The tournament win is the first for East Carolina since 2008 and the first road tournament victory since 2005. The Pirates had three players named to the All-Tournament Team in senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis, junior setter Zarah Cecich, and sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson. Willis garnered MVP honors after finishing the classic with 40 kills (4.44 per set), 25 digs (2.78 per set), three blocks (0.33 per set), a trio of assists, and as many service aces. She also recorded two double-doubles in three matches. Cecich paced the offense with 66 assists (7.33 per set) to go along with 12 kills (1.33 per set), 10 digs (1.11 per set), and three blocks (0.33 per set), with an impressive hitting percentage of .524. Lee-Dunson wrapped up the weekend tournament with a .433 hitting percentage, 15 kills (1.67 per set), five total blocks (0.56 per set) and two digs.

About the Pirates
East Carolina owns a 5-5 overall record which more than doubles the Pirates’ win total from last season. ECU is led offensively by senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis who boasts 134 kills to average 4.32 kills per set to rank second in Conference USA and 18th in the NCAA. Willis’ 4.89 points per game average is also good for second in the league and ranks 20th in the nation. The Raleigh, N.C., native adds 95 digs (3.06 per set), 18 total blocks, nine assists, and eight service aces on the year. Senior libero Shelby Beasley has been consistent for ECU in the back row as she sets the standard with 126 digs to average 4.06 digs per set. Her digs per set average lists her seventh in the conference. Junior Zarah Cecich and freshman Bella Borgiotti share setter duties for the Pirates as the duo have combined for 309 assists this season. Cecich has accumulated 199 assists (7.65 per set), while Borgiotti has dished out 110 (6.11 per set). Senior middle hitter Virginia Fitch leads the squad with 30 total blocks to average 1.00 per set. She also owns a team-best nine service aces for an average of 0.30 per set which is tied for ninth in C-USA.

Scouting the Eagles
NC Central is looking for its first win of the 2013 season as the Eagles hold an 0-12 overall record. Da’sha Brown is the Eagles’ leading scorer with a team-best 85 kills to average 2.30 kills per set. She also owns 67 digs for an average of 1.81 per set, five total blocks, four assists and five service aces. Kelsey Murphy leads the Eagles’ defense with 81 digs to average 2.19 per set. Murphy has also contributed 54 kills, seven aces, four blocks and as many assists. Alice Genna is NC Central’s primary setter as she has amassed a team-best 185 assists to average 5.00 per set. Ashley McCarthy has collected 30 total blocks for the Eagles and is averaging 0.81 per set. NC Central is struggling offensively with a .078 hitting percentage, 300 kills (8.11 per set) and 269 assists (7.27 per set). The Eagles have accumulated 414 digs to average 11.19 per set and are tied with their opponents in blocks per set with 1.5.

The National Spotlight
As a team, East Carolina ranks 31st in the nation in digs per set as the Pirates average 16.42. Individually, senior opposite Nicole Willis ranks 18th nationally with 4.32 kills per set and 20th in the NCAA with 4.89 points per set.

Cracking the Top Ten
Senior Shelby Beasley and junior Zarah Cecich have broken into the East Carolina record book top 10. Beasley earned herself a number five spot on the career digs list with 1,065. She is just 49 digs away from fourth-place. Cecich cracked the top 10 with 1,231 career assists. She is 445 assists away from the ninth-place spot.

Where There’s a Willis There’s a Way
Senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis owns a team-best 134 kills to average 4.32 per set. The Raleigh, N.C., native has also contributed 95 digs (3.06 per set), 18 blocks (0.58 per set), eight aces and nine assists in the Pirates’ first 10 matches of the season. She has notched double digit kills in eight out of 10 contests and most recently recorded two double-doubles in one day as she tallied 19 kills and 11 digs versus Gardner-Webb and 12 kills and 10 digs at Elon over the weekend at the Phoenix Classic en route to being named MVP of the tournament.

Helping Hands
This season East Carolina is platooning junior Zarah Cecich and freshman Bella Borgiotti at setter. The duo have combined for 309 assists in the first 10 matches of the year. Over the weekend, Cecich paced the Pirate offense as she dished out 66 assists to average 7.33 per set) and added 12 kills, 10 digs and three blocks en route to being named to the Elon Phoenix All-Tournament Team. On the year, Cecich has registered 199 assists (7.65 per set), while Borgiotti has added 110 (6.11 per set).

Can You Dig It?
Senior libero Shelby Beasley leads ECU with 126 digs and is averaging 4.06 digs per set. Her digs per set average ranks her seventh in Conference USA. The Winter Park, Fla., native has done her part leading the Pirate defense as the squad has registered 509 digs to average 16.43 per set which is good for third in the conference and 31st in the nation.

Block Party
Senior middle hitter Virginia Fitch has collected a team-best 30 total blocks this year to average 1.00 per set. The Raleigh, N.C., native has tallied two solo blocks and 28 block assists. Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson owns 25 block assists for an average of 0.85 per set. She owns one solo block and 24 block assists. The duo have helped the Pirates collect 61.5 total blocks on the year for an average of 1.98 per set.

All-Tourney All The Time
Nicole Willis, Zarah Cecich, and Kierra Lee-Dunson were all named to the Elon Phoenix All-Tournament Team over the weekend. Willis garnered MVP honors after finishing the classic with 40 kills (4.44 per set), 25 digs (2.78 per set), three blocks (0.33 per set), a trio of assists, and as many service aces. She also recorded two double-doubles in three matches. Cecich paced the offense with 66 assists (7.33 per set) to go along with 12 kills (1.33 per set), 10 digs (1.11 per set), and three blocks (0.33 per set), with an impressive hitting percentage of .524. Lee-Dunson wrapped up the weekend tournament with a .433 hitting percentage, 15 kills (1.67 per set), five total blocks (0.56 per set) and two digs.

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.

ECU in the C-USA
This season the Pirates have ranked in the Conference USA top five in three statistical categories thus far. East Carolina is second in service aces per set with an average of 1.48, third in digs per set with an average of 16.42, and third in opponent hitting percentage as ECU has limited its counterparts to a .153 attack percentage.

Pirates in the C-USA
Individually, ECU has four student-athletes who rank in the top 10 in Conference USA statistical categories this season. Senior Nicole Willis’ name can be found in two categories as she is second in kills per set (4.32) as well as points per set (4.89). Sophomore Kierra Lee-Dunson has put together a .381 hitting percentage which is good for fifth in the conference, while senior Shelby Beasley ranks seventh with a 4.06 digs per set ratio, and senior Virginia Fitch is tied for ninth as she averages 0.30 services aces per set.

All in the Family
There are a few East Carolina family connections on the roster again this season. Sophomore Torre Blake, who saw action in 45 sets last season, is the daughter of Jeff Blake who played football at ECU and proceeded to enjoy a lengthy NFL career. Additionally, Kierra and Sierra Lee-Dunson return to the Pirates this season after Kierra played in 29 sets and Sierra redshirted last year. 2013 marks the first season East Carolina will have a pair of twins on the court since Sarah and Jessica Vick donned purple and gold from 2001-03.

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 Pirates’ mid-week match at NC Central, East Carolina will head to Boone, N.C., for the Black and Gold Challenge hosted by Appalachian State which begins Friday, September 20 and concludes Saturday, September 21. ECU will play the tournament hosts at 7 p.m., on Friday, before going up against Denver and UT Arlington on Saturday at 10 a.m., and 4 p.m., respectively.