HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Senior Kelley Wernert just missed a double-double as she led the eighth-seeded East Carolina volleyball team defeated the ninth-seeded SMU Mustangs 3-0 in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament inside the Cam Henderson Center Thursday evening. The Pirates improve their overall record to 16-16 while SMU ends its season at 16-15. ECU advances to face the top seed and host Marshall Thundering Herd tomorrow at 5 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The sweep marks the second-ever win for the squad in six tries in conference tournament play.
The Pirates jumped on top 3-1 early in game one but the Mustangs quickly tied the frame at eight. The game stayed tight until with East Carolina leading 17-13, it scored the next two points to force a timeout from SMU. With the Pirates enjoying a 28-22 advantage, the Mustangs responded, pulling within 29-28 before ECU slammed the door with a Wernert kill.
With the Pirates holding a slim 10-8 lead in game two, they scored the next five points to go up 15-8. SMU never threatened again as East Carolina cruised to a 30-23 victory.
The Mustangs took an early 3-1 lead in game three but the Pirates rallied to tie the frame at four. A timeout by SMU with ECU leading 20-16 proved ineffective as the Pirates took a 25-19 advantage. With East Carolina leading 27-21, the Mustangs cut the deficit to 29-27, fighting off two game points before the Pirates were able to complete the sweep with a 30-27 win.
Wernert put down 24 kills while sophomore Melissa Zentner added 11 as the two combined for 35 of ECU’s 59 kills. Junior Trish Monroe came up big for the defense, notching 21 digs as sophomore Stephanie Turner added 12. Freshman Katie Koop turned in a stellar effort, handing out 46 assists for an average of 15.33 per game. Wernert’s kills and Koop’s assists are all tournament-highs through three matches.
The Pirates dominated the stat sheet, recording more kills (59-44), assists (55-40), digs (73-63) and aces (8-4).