ECU Travels to the State of Texas to Close Out Regular-Season

UABSPORTS.COM Erika Figueroa
Erika Figueroa

Nov. 14, 2013

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GREENVILLE, N.C. –The East Carolina volleyball team concludes the regular season with a pair of road matches in the state of Texas. The Pirates will go up against UTSA in San Antonio on Friday, November 15, at 8 p.m. ET. Following that contest, ECU will head to El Paso to take on UTEP on Sunday, November 17. The last regular-season home match is set for 2 p.m. ET.

The Series vs. UTSA
The Pirates and the Roadrunners will meet for the first time in program history on Friday, November 15 in San Antonio, Texas. Prior to joining Conference USA, UTSA competed in the Western Athletic Conference.

The Series vs. UTEP
East Carolina and UTEP will face off for the 13th time in program history when they square off on Sunday, November 17. The Miners lead the all-time series 9-3. In their last meeting, UTEP defeated ECU, 3-1 [19-25, 14-25, 25-23, 25-20], on November 9, 2012. The Miners have won the last five meetings and the Pirates are looking for their first win over UTEP since October 16, 2009 when ECU defeated UTEP, 3-2 [27-25, 22-25, 25-22, 17-25, 17-15] in Greenville.

Last Time Out
East Carolina is coming off of a 3-2 [25-22, 22-25, 18-25, 25-22, 15-13] loss to Charlotte last Sunday. In that match, Whitney Campbell recorded a double-double and Shelby Beasley collected 29 digs to tie for third in the ECU single-game record book. Senior Nicole Willis led the offense with 15 kills and tied her career-high with six total blocks. Campbell was the only other Pirate to reach double-figure kills as she notched 12 to go along with 16 digs for her sixth double-double of the year. The senior outside hitter also added three block assists and a service ace. Beasley, a senior libero, led the ECU defense with 29 digs, while sophomore Erika Figueroa added 11. Junior setter Zarah Cecich posted 33 assists, while freshman Bella Borgiotti contributed 14. Freshman Ashley McRae came off the bench and tallied a career-high nine kills and added five total blocks while hitting a team-best .444 in the setback. The contest was a battle from the start. ECU came out on top 25-22 in the first set, but Charlotte managed to win back-to-back games to take a 2-1 set lead in the match. East Carolina evened the score at 2-2 after defeating the 49ers, 25-22, in the fourth set to force a fifth and deciding frame. Charlotte would emerge victorious as the 49ers held off the Pirates, 15-13, in the final set.

About the Pirates
ECU comes into the weekend at UTSA and UTEP with a 13-17 overall record and a 3-9 Conference USA mark. The Pirates are coming off of a 3-2 loss to Charlotte and looking to secure a place in the Conference USA Tournament. As a team, East Carolina is averaging 11.39 kills per set and owns a .165 attack percentage. The Pirates are a defensively strong team that is averaging 15.21 digs per set to rank eighth in C-USA, while limiting opponents to a .174 hitting percentage. ECU is led offensively by Nicole Willis who averages 3.69 kills per set which is good for eighth in C-USA and 4.18 points per set to rank ninth in the league. Willis also adds 2.59 digs per set, for third on the squad, along with a team-leading 0.17 service aces per set. Senior libero Shelby Beasley is the team’s leader in digs with 445 to average 4.08 which ranks 10th in C-USA. Zarah Cecich, a junior setter from Crown Point, Ind., has set the offensive tone with 796 assists to average 7.73 per set to rank 13th in the league. Cecich has also recorded 178 digs (1.73 per set), 74 kills (0.72 per set) and 39 total blocks (0.38 per set). Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson is the Pirates’ leader in blocks as she has tallied 97 to average 0.92 per set. Lee-Dunson also adds 171 kills for an average of 1.61 per set.

Scouting the Roadrunners
UTSA comes into the contest against the Pirates in second place in Conference USA with an 11-1 league record and a 19-7 overall mark. The Roadrunners are averaging 13.88 kills per set and 13.11 assists per set while hitting .262. UTSA’s defense averages 17.91 digs per set two go along with 2.62 blocks per set. McKenzie Adams is the team and conference leader in kills with 519 for an average of 5.58 per set. She also adds 340 digs (3.66 per set) which is good for second on the squad and 66 total blocks (0.71 per set). Annie Kunes leads the Roadrunners in digs with 463 for an average of 4.98 per set which ranks her second in C-USA. Brandy Huskey and Jessica Waldrip share setter duties for UTSA. Huskey owns 574 (9.43 per set) assists, while Waldrip has dished out 543 (9.87 per set). Waldrip’s assists per set ratio ranks her eighth in the conference, while Huskey’s ranks her 10th. Kylie Schott leads the team with 94 total blocks for an average of 1.19 per set which ranks her third in Conference USA.

Scouting the Miners
UTEP hosts the Pirates in the final regular-season contest and the Miners hold an overall record of 13-12 and a Conference USA mark of 6-6. As a team, UTEP is hitting .206 and averaging 13.14 kills per set as well as 12.13 assists per set. On the defensive end, the Miners average 14.68 digs per set and 1.83 blocks per set. Xitali Herrera leads the team with 373 kills for an average of 4.29 per set which ranks fourth in C-USA. She also averages 2.79 digs per set for second on the team. The Miners’ leader in digs is Victoria Valencia who has amassed 318 for an average of 3.70 and ranks 13th in the league. Malia Patterson is the Miners’ setter as she has dished out 892 assists for an average of 10.25 per set which is good for ninth in the conference.

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 3.69 kills per set and 4.18 points per set and both are nationally ranked marks. Her kills per game average is good for 73rd in the NCAA, while her points per set ratio ranks her 80th.

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 two spot on the career digs list with 1,384. Cecich moved up to eighth on the all-time assists list with 1,828 helpers. With two regular-season matches remaining, Cecich is just eight 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 402 kills to average 3.69 per set. The Raleigh, N.C., native has also contributed 282 digs (2.59 per set), 61 blocks (0.56 per set), 28 assists, and a team-leading 18 service aces. She has notched double-digit kills in 23 out of 30 contests this season. She has also led the team in kills in 27 of 30 matches and has recorded a team-high 14 double-doubles. Willis’ kills per set average ranks her eighth in the conference and 73rd in the NCAA. Additionally, she averages 4.18 points per set which is also good for ninth in the league and 80th in the nation.

Helping Hands
East Carolina is platooning junior Zarah Cecich and freshman Bella Borgiotti at setter. The duo have combined for 1,043 assists this year. On the season, Cecich has registered 796 assists (7.73 per set), while Borgiotti has added 247 (5.49 per set). The pair have helped the Pirates average 10.68 assists per set as ECU has accumulated a total of 1,164 helpers on the year.

Can You Dig It?
Senior libero Shelby Beasley leads ECU with 445 digs and is averaging 4.08 digs per set. Her digs per set average ranks her 10th in Conference USA. The Winter Park, Fla., native has done her part leading the Pirate defense as the squad has registered 1,658 digs to average 15.21 per set which is good for eighth in the conference.

Block Party
Sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson owns a team-leading 97 total blocks for an average of 0.92 per set. Senior Virginia Fitch is second on the team with 61 total block for an average of 0.85 blocks per set. The duo have helped the Pirates rack up 227.5 total blocks for an average of 2.09 per set.

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 13 victories thus far, which is more than six times ECU’s win total from a year ago. Victory No. 12 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 fifth in blocks per set as ECU has averaged 2.22 blocks per set in conference games The Pirates also rank sixth in opponent hitting percentage as they have limited their conference counterparts to .203 hitting. East Carolina also ranks eighth in digs per set with a 15.10 average in conference matches this season.

Pirates in the C-USA
Individually, senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis is ranked in two statistical categories in Conference USA. Willis averages 3.69 kills per set which is good for eighth in the conference. She also averages 4.18 points per game to rank ninth in the league. Senior libero Shelby Beasley has amassed 445 digs to average 4.08 digs per set which places her 10th in the conference, while sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson is hitting .310 for 11th, and junior setter Zarah Cecich leads the Pirates with 7.73 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.