East Carolina Takes on Charleston Southern on Tuesday

UABSPORTS.COM Kierra Lee-Dunson
Kierra Lee-Dunson

Oct. 7, 2013

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GREENVILLE, N.C. –The East Carolina volleyball team heads to Charleston, S.C., to take on Charleston Southern in a mid-week non-conference match on Tuesday, October 8, at 7 p.m. The Pirates enter the match with an 8-11 overall record, while the Buccaneers hold a 5-13 season mark.

The Series vs. Charleston Southern
The Pirates and Buccaneers will meet for the sixth time in program history and ECU holds a slight edge on Charleston Southern as the Pirates lead the all-time series 3-2. In the last meeting, the Buccaneers defeated the Pirates in five sets at the Hilton Garden Inn Mayfaire Tournament in Wilmington, N.C. The Pirates are looking for their first win over the Buccaneers since 2005 when they held of Charleston Southern, 3-1, at the Wofford Tournament in Spartanburg, S.C.

Last Time Out
The Pirates recorded a 3-0 sweep of Savannah State on Saturday, October 5, inside Minges Colisuem. The victory marked the first for ECU since September 20, when the Pirates held off Appalachian State, 3-2. Against Savannah State, senior Nicole Willis recorded a match-high nine kills as she has led the Pirates in kills in all 19 matches this season. She added a team-best nine digs to go along with a .348 attack percentage. Junior setter Zarah Cecich controled the offense with 25 assists while adding five digs, four block assists, and a pair of kills with a .400 hitting percentage. Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson led the front row with five block assists, four kills, and a .333 clip. The Pirates’ victory was a total team effort as everyone saw action in the contest. ECU out-hit Savannah State .244 to -.163, while holding the edge on kills 31to 14. The Pirates also held the advantage with 27 assists to the Tigers’ 13. Defensively, East Carolina collected 39 digs, while limiting Savannah State to 30. The Pirates also recorded 10.0 total team blocks, while the Tigers posted 2.0.

About the Pirates
East Carolina owns an 8-11 overall record and is 0-3 in Conference USA action. As a team, the Pirates have accumulated 739 kills to average 11.37 per set, while averaging 10.74 assists per game. Defensively, ECU ranks sixth in the conference with a digs per set average of 15.05 while limiting opponents to a .181 hitting percentage which is also good for sixth in the league. Senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis is the team’s leader in kills with 259 to average 3.98 per set which ranks third in C-USA and 35th in the NCAA. Willis has amassed a team-best 292.0 points for a 4.49 points per game average to place fourth in the conference and 38th in the nation. The Raleigh, N.C., native also contributes 201 digs (3.09 per set), 32 total blocks (0.49 per set), 19 assists, and a team-best 15 service aces. Senior libero Shelby Beasley paces the back row with a team-leading 221 digs to average 3.40 per set which ranks in the top 15 in the conference. Junior Zarah Cecich and freshman Bella Borgiotti share setter duties as the duo have combined for 614 assists on the year. Cecich has dished out a team-best 499 helpers to average 8.32 assists per set which is good for 13th in Conference USA, while Borgiotti’s 115 assists are good for an average of 5.48. Sophomore Kierra Lee-Dunson is the Pirates’ leader in blocks with 53 to average 0.85 per set to rank 15th in the league. She also adds 86 kills, 13 digs and two assists.

Scouting the Buccaneers
Charleston Southern holds a 5-13 overall record and is 0-4 in the Big South Conference. The Buccaneers are looking to snap a six-match losing streak that dates back to September 21. As a team, Charleston Southern is hitting .186 and averaging 11.07 kills per set. The Buccaneers have accumulated 725 digs for an average of 12.72 per set. Katrina Houston is the team leader in kills with 148 to average 2.90 per set. Houston also adds 87 digs, 22 total blocks, and a team-best 17 service aces. Maggie Murphy leads the Buccaneers with 188 digs as she averages 3.30 per set. Cassidy Greer is Charleston Southern’s setter as she has amassed 458 assists for an average of 8.04 per set. Additionally, she has posted 90 digs, 30 blocks, 24 kills, and five service aces. Erin LaVenice owns a team-best 61 total blocks which is good for 1.07 per set. LaVenice also has contributed 127 kills for an average of 2.12 per set, and a .317 hitting percentage.

The National Spotlight
Senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis has been on an offensive tear as of late. The Raleigh, N.C., native leads the Pirates with 3.98 kills per set and 4.49 points per set and both are nationally ranked marks. Willis’ kills per game average is good for 35th in the NCAA, while her points per set average ranks 38th in the nation.

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 1,160. She is now 86 away from third-place. Cecich cracked the top 10 with 1,531 career assists. She is 145 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 259 kills to average 3.98 per set. The Raleigh, N.C., native has also contributed 201 digs (3.09 per set), 32 blocks (0.49 per set), 19 assists, and a team-leading 15 service aces. She has notched double digit kills in 15 out of 19 contests this season. She has also led the team in kills in every match this year and has recorded a team-high nine double-doubles. Willis’ kills per set average ranks her third in the conference and 35th in the NCAA. Additionally, she averages 4.49 points per set which is good for fourth in the league and 38th in the nation.

Helping Hands
East Carolina is platooning junior Zarah Cecich and freshman Bella Borgiotti at setter. The duo have combined for 614 assists this year. On the season, Cecich has registered 499 assists (8.32 per set), while Borgiotti has added 115 (5.48 per set). The pair have helped the Pirates average 10.74 assists per set as ECU has accumulated a total of 698 helpers on the year.

Can You Dig It?
Senior libero Shelby Beasley leads ECU with 221 digs and is averaging 3.40 digs per set. Her digs per set average ranks her 13th in Conference USA. The Winter Park, Fla., native has done her part leading the Pirate defense as the squad has registered 978 digs to average 15.05 per set which is good for sixth in the conference.

Block Party
Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson owns a team-leading 53 total blocks for an average of 0.85 per set. Senior middle hitter Virginia Fitch is second on the team with 34 total blocks this year to average 0.77 per set. The duo have helped the Pirates collect 125.0 total blocks on the year for an average of 1.92 per set.

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 eight 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 had not accomplished since 2008. Torbett has brought her winning ways to Pirate Nation as she helped ECU capture its first road tournament title since 2005 with three-straight sweeps at the Elon Phoenix Classic.

ECU in the C-USA
This season the Pirates have ranked in the Conference USA top 10 in a pair of defensive categories thus far. East Carolina is sixth in opponent hitting percentage as ECU has limited its counterparts to a .181 attack percentage. The Pirates are also ranked sixth in digs per set as they average 15.05 per set.

Pirates in the C-USA
Individually, senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis is ranked in two statistical categories in Conference USA. Willis’ 3.98 kills per set average is good for third, while her points per set ratio of 4.49 ranks her fourth in the league. Senior libero Shelby Beasley averages 3.40 digs per set which places her 13th, while junior setter Zarah Cecich’s 8.32 assists per game average lists her 13th in that category. Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson is hitting .299 on the year which ranks her 15th in the conference.

All in the Family
There are a few East Carolina family connections on the roster again this season. Sophomore Torre Blake, who has played in all 17 matches this season and is second on the team with 107 kills, 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 and Kierra leads the Pirates with a .306 attack percentage, while Sierra has seen action in a pair of matches thus far. 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...
The Pirates return home to Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum to host LA Tech on Friday, October 11, at 7 p.m., for their first annual Dig Pink match.