GREENVILLE, N.C. – Facing three match points in game four and down 2-1 in the contest, the East Carolina volleyball team rallied to take the frame but lost their conference tilt with Marshall 3-2 inside Minges Coliseum Sunday afternoon.
The Pirates fall to 12-13 overall and 3-7 in conference play with their fifth-consecutive loss while the Herd improves its record to 16-8 on the season and a league-best 9-1 in C-USA. The match marks the first time in the six-contest series that East Carolina has forced a deciding fifth game.
The teams traded points to begin the first game. With the Pirates leading 11-10, they used a 3-1 run to force a Marshall timeout. ECU maintained a five point advantage until the Herd rallied to pull within 24-22, inducing a Pirate timeout. However, East Carolina used a 6-1 stretch to close the frame 30-23.
A quick 4-0 run by Marshall to begin game two brought a quick timeout from the Pirate sidelines. The Herd would maintain that advantage the rest of the way to take the frame 30-24 and tie the match.
Marshall held ECU at arms length for most of the third game, but the Pirates would rally to tie the frame at 22. However, a 3-0 spurt by the Herd induced an East Carolina timeout. The Pirates pulled within 25-23 but Marshall proved too much, taking the game 30-23.
Facing defeat, ECU raced out to a 10-7 lead in game four which forced the Herd to take a timeout. Marshall would respond, eventually tying the game at 22. After the Herd scored the next two points to take a 26-24 advantage, the Pirates used a 3-1 run to knot the score at 27. Facing two game points with Marshall leading 29-27, East Carolina used a Herd attack error and a Kelley Wernert kill to bring the score to 29-29. A Kelly-Anne Billingy kill gave Marshall the 30-29 edge but on the next play, Wernert came through, putting down a ball to make it 30-30. Then, much to the delight of the Minges Coliseum crowd, Wernert and Stephanie Turner came up with two thunderous blocks to send the match to a fifth game.
The Pirates struck first in game five, taking a 6-3 advantage which forced the Herd to take a timeout. Marshall would tie the game at seven and use a 6-3 run to take a 13-10 lead. ECU pulled within 13-12 but the Herd mustered two consecutive points to take frame and the match.
Wernert led all hitters with 27 kills while Peyton Thompson tallied a career-high 17 scores. Wernert also contributed a team-high six blocks as the Pirates edged Marshall 9-8 in that statistic. Hannah Fenker paced the defense, putting up double-digit digs with 10. After recording 21 assists in the first game, Katie Koop finished the match with 53 assists, her ninth contest with 51 or more helpers this season.
Kelly-Anne Billingy led the Herd with 24 kills while Elizabeth Fleming notched a career-high 72 assists. Additionally, Maggie Arias contributed 18 digs to lead five Marshall players in double-digit digs.
East Carolina will make the trek to Texas next weekend, competing against two conference opponents from Houston. The Pirates will battle Houston on Friday at 8 before traveling five miles across town to square off against Rice on Sunday at 2.