Volleyball Looks to Get Back on the Winning Track at Howard

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

Sept. 23, 2013

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - The Pirates are looking to get back on the winning track when they travel to Howard for a mid-week non-conference affair Tuesday, September 24 at 7 p.m. in Washington, D.C. The contest marks the Pirates' ninth-straight match that will be played away from Minges Coliseum.

The Last Meeting
Howard0
East Carolina3
August 30, 2008
Greenville, N.C.
Volleyball Picks Up Two More Victories
GREENVILLE, N.C. -- For the East Carolina volleyball team, Saturday inside Minges Coliseum was just as successful as Friday night. The Pirates swept both Howard and High Point to become champions of the 2008 East Carolina Classic.


The Match
ECU travels to Washington, D.C., to take on the Howard Bison on Tuesday, September 24. The match will be played at 7 p.m., inside Burr Gymnasium. The contest marks the Pirates' ninth-straight match that will be played away from Minges Coliseum.

The Series
The Pirates and the Bison will meet for the fourth time in program history and East Carolina leads the all-time series 3-0. Tuesday's contest is the first meeting between the two squads since August 30, 2008, when ECU swept Howard, 3-0 [25-22, 25-13, 25-21], at the East Carolina Classic. ECU previously defeated Howard 3-0 in 2007 and 3-1 in 1997.

Last Time Out
The Pirates' five-match winning streak came to a close with a 3-2 loss to Denver followed by a 3-1 setback against UT Arlington at the Black and Gold Challenge. East Carolina began the tournament with a five-set victory over host Appalachian State on Friday night, but dropped a pair of contests on Saturday. Over the weekend, ECU was led offensively by senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis and sophomore outside hitter Torre Blake. Willis notched a pair of double-doubles at the tournament and finished the weekend with 52 kills (3.71 per set), 42 digs (3.00 per set), eight total blocks, four assists and one service ace, while Blake posted 34 kills (2.43 per set), eight digs, eight total blocks, and two assists en route to being named to the All-Tournament Team. Junior setter Zarah Cecich recorded a season-high 55 assists at Appalachian State and finished the tournament with 131 assists to average 9.36 per set. Cecich also added 20 digs, 12 kills, four total blocks and three aces. Defensively, senior libero Shelby Beasley collected a team-best 50 digs to average 3.57 per set, while senior outside hitter Whitney Campbell recorded 32 and sophomore defensive specialist Erika Figueroa contributed 25. Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson was outstanding at the net as she put up a career-high seven total blocks at Appalachian State and wrapped up the tournament with 13 total blocks for an average of 0.93 per set.

About the Pirates
East Carolina owns a 7-7 overall record which more than triples the Pirates' win total from last season. ECU is led offensively by senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis who boasts 200 kills to average 4.17 kills per set to rank fourth in Conference USA and 31st in the NCAA. Willis' 4.70 points per game average is also good for third in the league and ranks 30th in the nation. The Raleigh, N.C., native adds 143 digs (2.98 per set), 27 total blocks, 13 assists, and 10 service aces on the year. Senior libero Shelby Beasley has been consistent for ECU in the back row as she sets the standard with 186 digs to average 3.88 digs per set. Junior Zarah Cecich and freshman Bella Borgiotti share setter duties for the Pirates as the duo have combined for 477 assists this season. Cecich has accumulated 367 assists (8.53 per set), while Borgiotti has dished out 110 (6.11 per set). Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson leads the squad with 37 total blocks to average 0.87 per set. She also owns 65 kills, nine digs and one assist. The East Carolina defense has been consistent all year as the Pirates are limiting opponents to just .165 hitting to rank third in the conference. ECU also has tallied 742 digs to average 15.46 per set which is good for fourth in the league. Offensively, the Pirates average 11.83 kills per set to go along with 11.29 assists per set.

Scouting the Bison
Howard has put together a 10-5 record this season including a six-match win streak in early September. The Bison are coming off of a 2-1 showing at the Providence Tournament in which they defeated Morgan State (3-2) and St. Francis Brooklyn (3-1), before losing in four sets to host, Providence. Katherine Broussard is the team's leading scorer with 182 kills to average 3.25 per set. She also adds 158 digs (2.82 per set), 23 assists, 19 service aces, and 15 total blocks. Allyson Lods owns a team-best 250 digs as she averages 4.46 per set to go along with 33 assists, 13 aces, and two kills. Stephanie Shultis is Howard's primary setter as she averages 9.54 assists per set and has amassed 534 helpers on the year. As a team, Howard is hitting .188 and averages 12.36 kills per set, 11.02 assists per set, 14.09 digs per set, and 1.90 blocks per set.

The National Spotlight
As a team, East Carolina ranks 77th in the nation in digs per set as the Pirates average 15.46. Individually, senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis ranks 30th nationally with 4.70 points per set and 31st in the NCAA with 4.17 kills per set.

Cracking the Top Ten
Senior Shelby Beasley and junior Zarah Cecich have broken into the East Carolina record book top 10. Beasley has moved up to a number four spot on the career digs list with 1,125. She is now 121 away from third-place. Cecich cracked the top 10 with 1,399 career assists. She is 277 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 200 kills to average 4.17 per set. The Raleigh, N.C., native has also contributed 143 digs (2.98 per set), 27 blocks (0.56 per set), 13 assists and 10 service aces this season. She has notched double digit kills in 12 out of 14 contests. Most recently, Willis recorded two double-doubles at the Black and Gold Challenge as she notched 20 kills and 18 digs at Appalachian State as well as 18 kills and 16 digs versus Denver.

Helping Hands
This season East Carolina is platooning junior Zarah Cecich and freshman Bella Borgiotti at setter. The duo have combined for 477 assists this year. Over the weekend, Cecich paced the Pirate offense as she dished out 131 assists to average 9.36 per set and added 12 kills, 20 digs and four blocks. On the year, Cecich has registered 367 assists (8.53 per set), while Borgiotti has added 110 (6.11 per set).

Can You Dig It?
Senior libero Shelby Beasley leads ECU with 186 digs and is averaging 3.88 digs per set. Her digs per set average ranks her 12th in Conference USA. The Winter Park, Fla., native has done her part leading the Pirate defense as the squad has registered 742 digs to average 15.46 per set which is good for fourth in the conference and 77th in the nation.

Block Party
Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson owns a team-leading 39 total blocks for an average of 0.87 per set. Over the weekend, she recorded a total of 13 total blocks to average 0.93 per set at the Black and Gold Challenge. Senior middle hitter Virginia Fitch adds 33 total blocks this year to average 0.85 per set. The duo have helped the Pirates collect 93.5 total blocks on the year for an average of 1.95 per set which ranks in the top 10 in Conference USA.

All-Tourney All The Time
The Pirates have competed in four tournaments this season and have come away with numerous All-Tournament team selections. Most recently, sophomore Torre Blake garnered All-Tournament team accolades at the Black and Gold Challenge after hitting .235 with 34 kills, eight total blocks, eight digs, and a pair of assists. Other Pirates who have earned All-Tournament team honors are: Nicole Willis (East Carolina Classic, Elon Phoenix Classic MVP), Shelby Beasley (Wake Forest Deacon Invitational, East Carolina Classic), Zarah Cecich (Elon Phoenix Classic), and Kierra Lee-Dunson (Elon Phoenix Classic).

New Leader
Head volleyball coach Julie Torbett, who was hired in February, is the 12th head coach in ECU volleyball history. The winningest coach in the Big South volleyball annals has lead the Pirates to seven victories thus far, more than tripling ECU's win total from a year ago. This season, she has guided the Pirates to five-straight wins, a feat which East Carolina has not accomplished since 2008. Torbett has brought her winning ways to Pirate Nation as she helped the Pirates capture their first road tournament title since 2005 with three-straight sweeps at the Elon Phoenix Classic. In just 14 matches, Torbett's team has collected more wins than the last three years combined and she isn't done yet.

ECU in the C-USA
This season the Pirates have ranked in the Conference USA top 10 in four statistical categories thus far. East Carolina is third in opponent hitting percentage as ECU has limited its counterparts to a .165 attack percentage. The Pirates are fourth in digs per set as they average 15.46 per set, sixth in service aces per set (1.21) and 10th in blocks per set (1.95).

Pirates in the C-USA
Individually, senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis ranks in the top 10 in two separate categories for the Pirates. Willis is third in points per set with 4.70 after tallying a total of 225.5 points this season. She ranks fourth in kills per set as she averages 4.17 per set with a total of 200 on the year.

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 Howard, East Carolina will open Conference USA action at North Texas on Friday, September 27, in Denton, Texas. First serve is set for 8 p.m. ET. The contest marks the first meeting between the two teams in program history.