Oct. 10, 2013
GREENVILLE, N.C. -East Carolina plays host to LA Tech and Tulane this weekend in a pair of Conference USA matches. The Pirates and the Lady Techsters will go head-to-head on Friday, October 11, at 7 p.m., in ECU's first annual Dig Pink match. The contest is also Girl Scout Day in addition to "Volley with the Pirates" in which fans will be allowed to come onto the court following the match and play volleyball with the team. On Sunday, October 13, ECU will welcome Tulane to Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum for a 2 p.m. matinee. Promotions for that day include Girl Scot Day and a Q&A session with the team directly following the contest.
The Series vs. LA Tech
The Pirates and Lady Techsters will meet for the first time in program history on Friday, October 11, at 7 p.m. LA Tech is new to Conference USA as the Lady Techsters previously competed in the Western Athletic Conference before joining C-USA on July 1, 2013.
The Series vs. Tulane
ECU and Tulane will face off for the 15th time in program history and the Green Wave leads the all-time series 13-1. The Pirates' only victory came in the two teams' last meeting when East Carolina defeated Tulane, 3-1 [25-20, 14-25, 25-19, 25-14] on senior day to end the 2012 season. Prior to that, the Green Wave had been victorious in all of the previous meetings.
Last Time Out
The Pirates recorded a 3-0 [27-25, 25-22, 25-19] sweep at Charleston Southern on Tuesday to give East Carolina its first nine-win season since 2009. ECU used a balanced offense to control the match and sophomore Torre Blake led the Pirates with 12 kills, three total blocks, two digs and a service ace while hitting .375. Senior Nicole Willis notched her team-leading 10th double-double of the season with 10 kills and 14 kills, while sophomore Kierra Lee-Dunson tied her career-best with nine kills and a .600 hitting percentage. Junior Zarah Cecich paced the offense with 34 assists, while senior Shelby Beasley contributed 12 digs on defense.
About the Pirates
East Carolina owns a 9-11 overall record and is 0-3 in Conference USA action. As a team, the Pirates have accumulated 783 kills to average 11.51 per set, while averaging 10.81 assists per game. Defensively, ECU ranks sixth in the conference with a digs per set average of 15.03 while limiting opponents to a .181 hitting percentage which is good for fourth in the league. Senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis is the team's leader in kills with 259 to average 3.96 per set which ranks fifth in C-USA and 42nd in the NCAA. Willis has amassed a team-best 302.5 points for a 4.45 points per game average to place fourth in the conference and 43rd in the nation. The Raleigh, N.C., native also contributes 215 digs (3.16 per set), 33 total blocks (0.49 per set), 21 assists, and a team-best 15 service aces. Senior libero Shelby Beasley paces the back row with a team-leading 233 digs to average 3.43 per set which ranks in the top 20 in the conference. Junior Zarah Cecich and freshman Bella Borgiotti share setter duties as the duo have combined for 648 assists on the year. Cecich has dished out a team-best 533 helpers to average 8.46 assists per set which is good for 12th in Conference USA, while Borgiotti's 115 assists average 5.48. Sophomore Kierra Lee-Dunson is the Pirates' leader in blocks with 55 to average 0.85 per set. She also adds 95 kills, 13 digs and two assists with a team-best .296 hitting percentage which ranks 17th in C-USA.
Scouting the Lady Techsters
LA Tech holds a 7-12 overall record and is 1-3 in Conference USA action this year. The Lady Techsters are coming off of a 3-0 loss at Marshall on Sunday. LA Tech is averaging 10.9 kills per set and 10.0 assists per game, while posting 12.5 digs per set. Rebecca Redgen and Xzache Mathis are the Lady Techsters' leaders in kills as Redgen owns 231 for an average of 3.12 and Mathis has accumulated 224 to average 3.39 per set. Maria Coelho is the team's setter with 651 assists to average 8.68 per game. On defense, the Lady Techsters are led by Alejandra Aviles' 233 digs which average 3.64 per set. Caitlin Germany leads the squad with 51 total blocks for an average of 0.76.
Scouting the Green Wave
Tulane is third in Conference USA standings with a 3-1 league record and a 17-2 overall mark. The Green Wave is on a four-match winning streak with victories over UTEP (3-1), Lamar (3-0), Marshall (3-0) and Charlotte (3-0). As a team, Tulane is hitting .277 and is averaging 14.61 kills per set to go along with 13.52 assists per game. Defensively, the Green Wave averages 15.09 digs per set and 1.83 blocks per set. Reigning C-USA Offensive Player of the Week Tea Juric leads the team with 250 kills to average 3.91 per set. Mel Mandelbaum is the league's current Setter of the Week and she owns 738 assists to average a league-leading 11.35 per game. Defensively, Cori Martone leads the Green Wave with 157 digs (2.45), while Sarah Strasner is the squads' leading blocker with 65 total blocks for an average of 0.97 per set.
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 3.96 kills per set and 4.45 points per set and both are nationally ranked marks. Willis' kills per game average is good for 42nd in the NCAA, while her points per set average ranks 43rd 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 1,172. She is now 74 away from third-place. Cecich cracked the top 10 with 1,676 career assists. She is 111 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 269 kills to average 3.96 per set. The Raleigh, N.C., native has also contributed 215 digs (3.16 per set), 33 blocks (0.49 per set), 21 assists, and a team-leading 15 service aces. She has notched double digit kills in 16 out of 20 contests this season. She has also led the team in kills in 19 of 20 contests and has recorded a team-high 10 double-doubles. Willis' kills per set average ranks her fifth in the conference and 42nd in the NCAA. Additionally, she averages 4.45 points per set which is good for fourth in the league and 43rd in the nation.
East Carolina is platooning junior Zarah Cecich and freshman Bella Borgiotti at setter. The duo have combined for 648 assists this year. On the season, Cecich has registered 533 assists (8.46 per set), while Borgiotti has added 115 (5.48 per set). The pair have helped the Pirates average 10.81 assists per set as ECU has accumulated a total of 735 helpers on the year.
Can You Dig It?
Senior libero Shelby Beasley leads ECU with 233 digs and is averaging 3.43 digs per set. Her digs per set average ranks her 17th in Conference USA. The Winter Park, Fla., native has done her part leading the Pirate defense as the squad has registered 1022 digs to average 15.03 per set which is good for sixth in the conference.
Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson owns a team-leading 55 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 130.0 total blocks on the year for an average of 1.91 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).
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 nine 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 trio of categories thus far. East Carolina is fourth 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 15.03 per set and seventh in service aces per set with an average of 1.18 per game.
Pirates in the C-USA
Individually, senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis is ranked in two statistical categories in Conference USA. Willis' 4.45 points per set average is good for fourth, while her kills per set ratio of 3.96 ranks her fifth in the league. Junior setter Zarah Cecich averages 8.32 assists per set which ranks her 12th in the league, while senior Shelby Beasley and sophomore Kierra Lee-Dunson rank 17th in digs per set (3.43) and hitting percentage (.296), respectively.
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.
The Pirates hit the road next weekend as they travel to Huntington, W.Va., on Friday, October 18, to take on Marshall at 5:30 p.m., before heading to Tulsa for a Sunday, October 20, contest at 1 p.m.