ECU Volleyball Extends Winning Streak To Five With 3-1 Victory Over Houston

Published: Oct. 15, 2017 at 7:25 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. – Backed by another strong defensive performance, the ECU volleyball team won its fifth-straight match Sunday evening, defeating American Athletic Conference foe Houston 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-23) inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum. The victory keeps the Pirates in a three-way tie for third place in the conference standings with Cincinnati and Temple.

Team Records: ECU (14-6, 6-2 AAC) | Houston (6-10, 2-6)

ECU put four players in double figures in the kill column in freshmen Shelby Martin and Bri Wood as well as seniors Natalie Montini and Lael Ceriani who all recorded 11. It was a career-high effort for Martin who also notched 41 assists and five digs to fall just short of a triple-double. On the defensive side of things, sophomore libero Brandee Markwith paced all players with 22 digs while senior defensive specialist Alex Jessett matched her career high with 18 digs of her own. Brianna Lynch racked up 11 kills and four blocks to lead the Cougars.

The Pirates hit for a .247 clip with 55 kills on 154 attempts with only 17 errors to trump Houston’s .201 showing. ECU also out-dug the Cougars 76-66 while the teams each ended up with six blocks.

Torbett’s Take: “I am very proud of our team for continuing to find ways to win. Give a lot of credit to Houston. Despite their travel troubles, they played with great spirit and attitude - really making us work for the victory. I also thought Alex Jessett was huge for us today defensively.”

Set One: Houston raced out to a 12-6 advantage, prompting a quick Pirate timeout. The Cougars held a 22-16 cushion late following a kill by Sarah Afflerbaugh, but the Purple and Gold dug down and scored seven of the next eight points to knot the score at 23. Houston recovered in time, using a Lynch kill and ECU ball-handling error to capture the set by two.

Set Two: The teams played to an 8-8 deadlock to begin the second, but kills by Martin and Montini helped the Pirates put together a 3-0 run and establish a bit of breathing room. Another kill by Martin later afforded ECU a 22-15 advantage, but the visitors ripped off six points in a row to pull within 22-21. Mares and Ceriani restored order with consecutive kills before Ceriani scored again to help the Pirates fend off the Cougars by three and tie the match at intermission.

Set Three: In the most lopsided set of the evening, ECU pulled out to a 13-8 lead following a Ceriani kill. Houston called a timeout after the Pirates extended the cushion to 16-9, but the Cougars could not come up with an answer this time. ECU rolled to the seven-point margin of victory to gain the 2-1 upper hand in the match.

Set Four: The Pirates led 12-10 midway through the fourth frame, but a 6-1 run capped by an ECU ball-handling error thrust Houston into the lead by three at 16-13. The Cougars looked to close out the stanza, later holding a 20-17 edge, but the Pirates scored five of the next seven points to draw even at 22. After a Houston timeout, two-straight kills by Wood put ECU at match point, 24-22. Chenelle Walker kept the Cougar hopes alive briefly, notching a kill, but Martin responded with a kill off the Houston block attempt to end the contest.

News and Notes

· The five-match conference winning streak is the longest for the Pirates since the 2006 squad captured eight-straight victories as a member of Conference USA.

· ECU improved to 9-4 at home in 2017 and kept the Cougars winless (0-6) on the road.

· The Pirates won their third-straight and five of the last seven in the series with Houston who now leads it 16-6.

· ECU is off to its best start to a conference season since 2000 when that squad began its Colonial Athletic Association slate by winning six of the first eight matches.

· Head coach Julie Torbett needs just three victories to become the winningest head coach in program history.

· The Pirates are one triumph away from matching last season’s total of 15.

Up Next: ECU begins a five-match road swing with an AAC contest Friday (Oct. 20) at Memphis. First serve is set for 8 p.m. inside the Elma Roane Fieldhouse.