Pirates To Play North Carolina A&T, Charlotte

Andrea Queck

Nov. 4, 2013

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GREENVILLE, N.C. –The East Carolina volleyball team will start the week with a mid-week non-conference match at North Carolina A&T followed by its last home contest of the season against Conference USA newcomer Charlotte. The Pirates will head to Greensboro, N.C., on Tuesday, November 5, to go up against North Carolina A&T at 7 p.m. On Sunday, November 10, ECU will host Charlotte at 2 p.m.

The Series vs. North Carolina A&T
The Pirates and the Aggies will meet for the 17th time in program history and East Carolina leads the all-time series 12-4. Tuesday’s contest marks the first meeting between the two teams since 2006, when ECU swept North Carolina A&T, 3-0 [30-19, 30-24, 30-26], in Minges Coliseum. The Aggies are looking for their first win over the Pirates since 2003, when A&T held off ECU in four sets [33-31, 34-36, 37-30, 22-30] in Greensboro.

The Series vs. Charlotte
East Carolina and Charlotte will go head-to-head for the 27th time in program history and the 49ers lead the all-time series 16-10. The in-state rivals last squared off in 2012 at the East Carolina Classic when Charlotte swept the Pirates, 3-0 [25-11, 30-28, 25-23] in Greenville. ECU is looking for its first victory over the 49ers since 2005 when the Pirates defeated Charlotte, 3-1 [28-30, 30-18, 30-27, 30-27] at Minges Coliseum.

Last Time Out
East Carolina came back from a 2-0 set deficit to defeat Middle Tennessee State, 3-2 [19-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-19, 15-13], Sunday afternoon to improve to 12-16 on the year and 3-8 in Conference USA action. The Pirates recorded a number of career-highs in a triumph that marked head coach Julie Torbett’s 350th career victory. ECU was led by Nicole Willis’ match-high 21 kills, which was just one shy of her season-best. Freshman Bella Borgiotti set the offensive tone for the Pirates as she notched a career-high 35 assists and 11 digs for her third double-double of the year. She also posted three total blocks to tie her career-high. Junior Zarah Cecich helped Borgiotti control the offense with 22 assists while adding eight digs in the contest. Senior Whitney Campbell gave the Pirates an offensive boost as she knocked down a career-best 16 kills to go along with 13 digs for her fifth double-double of the season. The Pirates held Middle Tennessee to just .161 hitting as senior libero Shelby Beasley paced the ECU defense with 20 digs. Middle hitters Virginia Fitch and Kierra Lee-Dunson held their own at the net as the duo combined for 13 total blocks with Fitch tying her season-high with seven and Lee-Dunson adding six. Lee-Dunson also added a career-best 12 kills, while hitting a team-high .550.

About the Pirates
ECU comes into the week against North Carolina A&T and Charlotte with a 12-16 overall record and a 3-8 Conference USA mark. The Pirates are coming off of a 3-2 come-from-behind victory against Middle Tennessee and looking to secure a place in the Conference USA Tournament. As a team, East Carolina is averaging 11.41 kills per set and owns a .163 attack percentage. The Pirates are a defensively strong team that is averaging 15.11 digs per set to rank sixth in C-USA, while limiting opponents to a .179 hitting percentage which is good for fourth in the league. ECU is led offensively by Nicole Willis who averages 3.75 kills per set and 4.24 points per set. Both ratios are good for seventh in the conference. Willis also adds 2.77 digs per set, for second on the squad, along with a team-leading 0.18 service aces per set. Senior libero Shelby Beasley is the team’s leader in digs with 396 to average 3.92 which ranks 11th in C-USA. Zarah Cecich, a junior setter from Crown Point, Ind., has set the offensive tone with 749 assists to average 7.80 per set to rank 13th in the league. Cecich has also recorded 164 digs (1.71 per set), 73 kills (0.76 per set) and 38 total blocks (0.40 per set). Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson is the Pirates’ leader in blocks as she has tallied 86 to average 0.88 per set. Lee-Dunson also adds 158 kills for an average of 1.61 per set.

Scouting the Aggies
North Carolina A&T owns a 6-22 overall record and is 5-3 in the MEAC. The Aggies are coming off of a 3-1 [23-25, 25-20, 25-18, 25-22] win over Bethune-Cookman on Sunday. On the year, the Aggies are averaging 9.53 kills per set while hitting .110 with 8.80 assists per game. Defensively, A&T is averaging 12.73 digs per set to go along with 1.14 blocks per set. Aleena McDaniel leads the offense with 247 kills to average 2.63 per game. She is also second on the team in digs with 227 (2.41 per set). Ashley Johnson is the squad’s leader in digs with 334 for an average of 3.67 per set. Liz Martino is the Aggies’ setter as she owns 534 assists for an average of 5.74 per set. At the net, the Aggies are led by Te-Borah Hawkins’ 56 total blocks for an average of 0.70 per set. Hawkins also contributes 135 kills for an average of 1.69 kills per set.

Scouting the 49ers
Charlotte comes to Minges Coliseum with an 11-15 overall mark and a 1-10 Conference USA ledger. The 49ers have struggled in league action as they lost their first 10 consecutive matches, however, they picked up their first conference victory last Sunday with a 3-1 [25-21, 23-25, 30-28, 25-10] win over UTEP. Charlotte is hitting .191 on the season and averaging 12.59 kills per set with 11.78 assists per game. The 49ers’ defense owns an average of 15.35 digs per set and 2.06 blocks per set. Amanda Videmsek leads Charlotte with 314 kills for a ratio of 3.34 per set while hitting .261 with 224 digs (2.38 per set) and a team-best 87 total blocks (0.93 per set). Britney Leigh Held sets the offensive tone for the 49ers with 982 assists to average 10.45 assists per game while also contributing 180 digs (1.91 per set) and 49 total blocks (0.52 per set). Michelle Hovey leads both Charlotte and Conference USA with 473 digs for an average of 5.03 per game.

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 3.75 kills per set and 4.24 points per set and both are nationally ranked marks. Her points per game average is good for 63rd in the NCAA, while her kills per set ratio ranks her 72nd.

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 three spot on the career digs list with 1,335. She is 13 digs away from second place. Cecich moved up to eighth on the all-time assists list with 1,781 helpers. With four regular-season matches remaining, Cecich is 55 assists away from sliding into seventh place.

C-USA Defensive Player of the Week
Senior libero Shelby Beasley paced the ECU defense the week of October 7, as she helped lead the Pirates to a 2-1 record with wins over Charleston Southern (3-0) and Louisiana Tech (3-2) en route to earning her first-ever Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week honor. The conference award is the first for the ECU volleyball program since former Pirate Trish Monroe was recognized by C-USA for her defensive efforts twice during the 2008 campaign. Beasley finished the week with 71 digs to average nearly six digs per set (5.92). At Charleston Southern, she notched 12 digs, then came back against LA Tech and tied her career-high and the ECU school record with 34 digs in the Pirates’ five-set win. Against Tulane, Beasley recorded a match-high 25 digs in the 3-1 setback.

Where There’s a Willis There’s a Way
Senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis owns a team-best 379 kills to average 3.75 per set. The Raleigh, N.C., native has also contributed 280 digs (2.77 per set), 53 blocks (0.52 per set), 27 assists, and a team-leading 18 service aces. She has notched double-digit kills in 22 out of 28 contests this season. She has also led the team in kills in 26 of 28 matches and has recorded a team-high 14 double-doubles. Willis’ kills per set average ranks her seventh in the conference and 63rd in the NCAA. Additionally, she averages 4.24 points per set which is also good for seventh in the league and 72nd in the nation.

Helping Hands
East Carolina is platooning junior Zarah Cecich and freshman Bella Borgiotti at setter. The duo have combined for 964 assists this year. On the season, Cecich has registered 749 assists (7.80 per set), while Borgiotti has added 215 (5.38 per set). The pair have helped the Pirates average 10.67 assists per set as ECU has accumulated a total of 1,078 helpers on the year.

Can You Dig It?
Senior libero Shelby Beasley leads ECU with 396 digs and is averaging 3.92 digs per set. Her digs per set average ranks her 11th in Conference USA. The Winter Park, Fla., native has done her part leading the Pirate defense as the squad has registered 1,526 digs to average 15.11 per set which is good for sixth in the conference.

Block Party
Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson owns a team-leading 86 total blocks for an average of 0.88 per set. Senior Virginia Fitch is second on the team with 60 total block for an average of 0.87 blocks per set. The duo have helped the Pirates rack up 204.5 total blocks for an average of 2.02 per set which ranks eighth 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. Below is a list of ECU’s 2013

All-Tournament Team selections:
Shelby Beasley, Wake Forest Deacon Invitational
Shelby Beasley, East Carolina Classic
Nicole Willis, East Carolina Classic
Zarah Cecich, Elon Phoenix Classic
Kierra Lee-Dunson, Elon Phoenix Classic
Nicole Willis, Elon Phoenix Classic, MVP
Torre Blake, Black and Gold Challenge

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 12 victories thus far, which is six times ECU’s win total from a year ago. Victory No. 12 also marked a significant milestone for Torbett as she collected her 350th career win. This year, she has guided the Pirates to their first double-digit win season since 2008 and helped them collect five-straight wins, a feat which East Carolina had not accomplished in five years. 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 defensively strong Pirates have ranked in the Conference USA top 10 in three categories - all defensive. East Carolina is fourth in opponent hitting percentage as ECU has limited its counterparts to a .172 attack percentage. The Pirates also rank sixth in digs per set as they average 15.11, their 2.02 blocks per set average is good for eighth in the league.

Pirates in the C-USA
Individually, senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis is ranked in two statistical categories in Conference USA. Willis averages 3.75 kills per set and 4.24 points per game which both rank her seventh in the conference. Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson is hitting .326 and ranks ninth in the league, while senior libero Shelby Beasley has amassed 392 digs to average 3.92 digs per set which places her 11th in the conference, and junior setter Zarah Cecich leads the Pirates with 7.80 assists per set to rank 13th in C-USA.

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.

Coming Up...
Next weekend East Carolina closes out the regular-season with a pair of road matches agasint UTSA on Friday, November 15, at 8 p.m. E.T., followed by a Sunday, November 17, contest at UTEP at 2 p.m. E.T.