Nicole Willis pounded out a match-high 21 kills in the Pirates’ victory
GREENVILLE, NC September 6, 2013 –Junior Zarah Cecich recorded her first-career double-double and senior Nicole Willis led ECU with a season-high 21 kills in the Pirates’ 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-22) sweep of The Citadel on Friday evening at the East Carolina Classic. The victory marked the first of the season for the Pirates.
“It’s nice to win your home opener,” Head coach Julie Torbett said. “I’m excited to get my first win as a Pirate. We have two matches tomorrow, so we’ll have a little while to enjoy this win until it’s time for the next one.”
Cecich tallied a team-best 37 assists to go along with a career-best 14 digs en route to her first-ever collegiate double-double. The Crown Point, Ind., native also tacked on four kills, two block assists and one service ace while hitting .222 on her 21st birthday. Willis led the offensive attack with 21 kills to go along with seven digs, two blocks, an ace and a .240 hitting percentage. Defensively, seniors Whitney Campbell and Shelby Beasley each collected 13 digs in the match. Campbell added a pair of kills, two blocks, and one assist in the win.
ECU (1-3) got off to a strong start in the first set as the Pirates’ defense limited the Bulldogs to a .000 hitting percentage while accumulating 16 digs. Offensively, East Carolina hit .278 with 16 kills while The Citadel (0-4) amassed seven kills but was forced into seven attack errors. Although, the Bulldogs took a six-point lead on three occasions, the Pirates were relentless and kept fighting back until they took a 19-18 lead on an ace by Beasley followed by back-to-back kills from senior middle hitter Virginia Fitch. With a one-point advantage, the Pirates closed out the set on a 7-3 run taking the game by a score of 25-21.
Despite falling behind early in the second set, the Pirates rallied and tied the game at 11-all after forcing a Bulldog attack error. After a few back-and-forth plays, ECU claimed its first lead of the frame on a kill by Willis which sparked a 6-1 run that culminated in the Pirates leading The Citadel 19-14. The Bulldogs tried to come back and regain their lead, but the Pirates went on to win the second set, 25-21.
Like the second set, ECU trailed early in the third game but managed to come from behind and turn a five-point deficit (9-14) into a one-point lead (21-20) after a kill off the hands of Willis. The Pirates knocked down four more points to win the set and match, 25-22. In the third frame, the East Carolina defense, once again, held the Bulldogs to a .000 hitting percentage. The Pirates posted 15 kills, while The Citadel registered six.
“I was very proud of the team,” Torbett said. “We’ve been preaching winners all spring. I came here with the mindset of turning this program around and I know these girls have that ability, the heart and the talent to do so. They just have to execute and they did that tonight.
“Nicole (Willis) was a leader on the court,” Torbett continued. “She really stood out tonight and did a good job making plays. But it’s a team sport and she can’t do that without her teammates. I think they did an excellent job of coming together as a team and playing well.”
Overall, the Pirates hit .130 in the match and limited The Citadel to a .034 hitting percentage. ECU knocked down 44 kills, collected 65 digs, 44 assists, 6.5 blocks and five aces in the contest. The Bulldogs amassed 23 kills, 52 digs, 23 assists, 8.5 blocks and six service aces.
Katie Briggs led The Citadel with a match-high five block assists to go with a team-best six kills. Erin Bucherl registered a match-high 22 digs, while setter Rachel Keefer finished the match with 20 assists, seven digs and three blocks.
The Pirates will be back on the court Saturday, September 7, for the second match of the East Carolina Classic. ECU will host Morgan State (0-4) at 12:30 p.m. at Minges Coliseum. The tournament begins at 10 a.m. with Loyola Chicago and The Citadel going head-to-head. Live stats will be available for all ECU Classic matches on ECUPirates.com.