GREENVILLE, N.C. – Nicole Willis registered her team-leading fifth double-double of the season as East Carolina battled Marshall in a tough 3-1 loss (19-25, 21-25, 25-23, 16-25) in the opening match of the Pirate Invitational.
Willis tied for a match-high with 16 kills and notched 17 digs in the setback. The junior from Raleigh, N.C., added three block assists and 17.5 points for East Carolina (1-9, 0-1 C-USA). Senior Kelly Derby dominated at the net as she put up nine total blocks to help limit Marshall (9-4, 1-0 C-USA) to a .167 hitting percentage. Derby also contributed seven kills and a .429 attack percentage in the match. Shelby Beasley controlled the ball defensively for ECU tallying 22 digs, while Kasey Kavanaugh was solid at setter with 32 assists, nine digs, six block assists, and three kills on the night.
The Pirates played with grit and determination as they posted 11 kills in the first set and exchanged leads with the Thundering Herd three times before dropping the set, 25-19.
Despite the loss in the first set, the Pirates refused to back down and began game two with three consecutive points on a service error by Marshall followed by a pair of kills from Willis. The Herd rallied to tie the game at six, but East Carolina pushed ahead and took a 9-6 lead on a kill by freshman Torre Blake. Marshall would not quit and continued to even the score, before it took the lead for good on a Pirate miscue (14-13). The visitors would go on to earn a win in set two by a margin of 25-21.
Although East Carolina was down two sets to none, the Pirates continued their hard-nosed style of play in the third set and out-hit Marshall .344-.158. The third frame was a back-and-forth affair which saw 16 ties and seven lead changes. With the set knotted at 23-23, the Pirates knocked down two points to best the Thundering Herd, 25-23.
After forcing a game four, the Pirates were first to get on the board as they took advantage of a Thundering Herd service error. However, the lead was short-lived as Marshall quickly jumped ahead by five (10-5) forcing an ECU timeout. The break in action did not stop the Herd as they bounded ahead and took the fourth and final set, 25-16.
Marshall had a pair of players collect a double-double in the match as Katy Schad compiled 16 kills and 14 digs, while Sammie Bane accounted for 45 assists and 12 digs.
The Pirate Invitational will continue Friday, Sept. 14, at 4 p.m. with Marshall going head-to-head with Coastal Carolina, followed by East Carolina playing host to UMBC at 7 p.m.
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