GREENVILLE, N.C. – A back and forth affair went the way of visiting Winthrop Saturday evening as the Eagles recorded a 3-2 (25-16, 15-25, 25-21, 17-25, 17-15) victory over ECU in the final match of the ECU Classic inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
The Pirates received a career performance from senior outside hitter Lael Ceriani who put down 22 kills to eclipse her previous best of 20 set just last weekend against Stetson. Senior middle hitter Natalie Montini and freshman right side Bri Wood also reached double figures offensively with 13 and 10 kills apiece. Ceriani also racked up 12 digs to complete her second double-double of the campaign. In the back row, sophomore libero Brandee Markwith led all players with 22 digs while senior outside hitter Ashton Mares collected 14 digs playing all six rotations. Jace Kleffner notched 19 kills to pace a quartet of Eagle hitters who reached double digits in the statistic.
Both teams were relatively low error in the match as Winthrop finished with a .269 hitting percentage as compared to ECU’s .255 mark. The Pirates also had the better of the blocking (5.0-3.0) and edge in the dig department (69-64). The sides combined for 15 service aces with freshman setter Shelby Martin netting three of ECU’s 10.
Team Records: ECU (6-4) | Winthrop (5-5)
Torbett’s Take: “We need to fix some inconsistencies in our game over the next week or so. Natalie really started to pick it up in the later sets and provided us a good spark. Lael and Bri also tried to carry us to victory but we did not get Bri the ball enough.”
Set One: The teams traded points back and forth to begin the match, leaving the Eagles with a slim 8-7 edge after a Mares ace. Winthrop began to create separation as the set wore on, building a 16-10 advantage following a kill by Ara Wilson. ECU could not rally back as the Eagles took the early one-set cushion.
Set Two: The Pirates turned the tables in the second stanza, racing out to a 12-8 lead after a Winthrop attacking error. The Purple and Gold allowed the Eagles just seven more points in the frame to tie the match at one set each heading into the intermission.
Set Three: A service ace saw Winthrop ahead 12-6 in the third set, but ECU scored five in a row to pull within one and force an Eagle timeout. The sides traded blows, but Winthrop was able to break a 20-20 deadlock with a 5-1 run that sealed the frame and gave the visitors a 2-1 set lead.
Set Four: The Pirates jumped out to an 11-8 edge in the fourth and kept the Eagles at a distance for the remainder of the set. The Eagles signaled for time after a Montini kill put ECU ahead 22-14, but the teams traded the last six points of the stanza to send the match to the deciding frame.
Set Five: Neither squad enjoyed more than a two-point advantage before settling for a tie at eight points. A big Pirate block and Winthrop attacking error forced the Eagles to burn a timeout, and a kill by sophomore middle hitter Toya Osuegbu made the lead three on the next rally. Winthrop answered back with four-straight points to recapture the lead before a service error tied things once more. ECU reached match point at 14-13 after a block by Mares and Osuegbu, but the Eagles fought off another Pirate match point with three straight to escape with the 17-15 match-clinching victory.
News and Notes
· Markwith was named to the ECU Classic All-Tournament Team.
· Gardner-Webb won the event with a 3-0 record.
· The Pirates’ 10 aces were a season high
· ECU dropped to 4-3 at home in 2017.
Up Next: The Purple and Gold will take a 10-day break from competition before returning to the court Sept. 19 with a home doubleheader against N.C. Central (4 p.m.) and North Carolina A&T (7 p.m.).