GREENVILLE, N.C. – A supremely confident UCF side entered Minges Coliseum Sunday afternoon having won two-straight 3-0 decisions, but ECU sent the Knights away with their eighth conference loss of the campaign in a 3-1 (25-20, 25-20, 16-25, 25-22) American Athletic Conference volleyball decision inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
The Pirates captured sole possession of fourth place in the league standings thanks to Cincinnati’s five-set loss to USF. ECU also pulled within a match of third-place Temple after the Owls were swept by No. 21 Wichita State.
Team Records: ECU (18-9, 9-5 AAC) | USF (13-13, 6-8 AAC)
The Pirates held the upper hand on the stat sheet in most of the categories, recording more kills (63-51), assists (57-47) and digs (57-47) while out-hitting the Knights .232 to .214.
Senior outside hitter Ashton Mares produced her team-best eighth double-double of the season, tallying 14 kills and 20 digs. Freshman setter Shelby Martin also picked up a double-double to the tune of 50 assists and 10 digs while adding five kills, two aces and a block. Senior outside hitter Lael Ceriani led all players in the match with 16 kills while senior middle hitter Natalie Montini and freshman right side Bri Wood chipped in with 14 and 11 respectively. Montini hit .440 after committing just three errors in 25 attempts.
Defensively, sophomore libero Brandee Markwith collected 17 digs while senior defensive specialist Alex Jessett notched 12 of her own. Sophomore middle hitter Toya Osuegbu finished with six blocks (two solo). Kia Bright paced UCF with 15 kills and 10 digs.
Torbett’s Take: “When we have three or four players perform well offensively, it usually spells success and it was no different today. You have to play a consistent and clean match to beat a good team like UCF and we accomplished that. I was not pleased with the third set, but credit the team for rebounding with a nice effort in the fourth.”
Set One: The first stanza was close for a majority of the early portion as the teams settled for a 12-12 deadlock. A kill by Mares sparked a 4-0 run that put ECU ahead 16-12. A block by Ceriani and Osuegbu further extended the advantage to 19-13 before the Pirates closed out the set by five.
Set Two: The Knights scored the first three points of the second frame but an attacking error by Bright later knotted the score at eight. The sides traded the lead back and forth and, with UCF ahead 15-14, ECU netted six of the next seven points to seize control of things. The Knights pulled within 23-20 late on a Bright kill, but Montini put down a kill and Kristina Fisher committed an attacking error to account for the final two points.
Set Three: Down 15-12 in the third stanza, the Pirates mustered up three-straight points to forge a tie. UCF was able to pull away, however, ending the set on a 10-1 run.
Set Four: With the score tied at six in the fourth, the Purple and Gold used a 4-0 run to move in front by four. Despite the Knights’ best efforts, ECU kept its foe at an arm’s length, closing out the match on a nice kill by Montini.
News and Notes
· The Pirates earned a season series split with UCF and improved to 10-15 overall against the Knights.
· Mares has recorded a double-double in three-straight matches
· ECU is now 11-4 at home in 2017, including a 5-1 mark against AAC opponents.
· With six matches left in the regular season, the Pirates are two victories away from their first 20-win campaign since 2005.
Up Next: ECU welcomes current No. 21 Wichita State to Greenville next Friday for a 4:30 p.m. first serve. The match is the front end of a doubleheader with the women’s basketball team who opens its 2017-18 season later that evening (8 p.m.) against USC Upstate.