ECU volleyball stuns Tulane in thrilling comeback

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NEW ORLEANS (ECU) – Against a Tulane team that had swept American Athletic Conference powerhouse Cincinnati just two days prior, East Carolina rallied all the way back from a two-set deficit to turn aside the Green Wave 3-2 (14-25, 23-25, 25-17, 29-27, 15-8) Sunday afternoon inside Devlin Fieldhouse.

The Pirates improve to 15-6 overall and 3-5 in league action while the Green Wave drop to 15-6 and 5-3. East Carolina also improved to 5-1 in five-set matches and won for the fourth time this season when dropping the first set.

Junior Sydney Kleinman recorded a match-high 20 kills and added eight digs as well as three blocks. Classmate Bri Wood tallied her second double-double of the weekend with 12 kills, 13 digs and a .265 attacking percentage. Additionally, junior Marissa Harmon was all over the stat sheet with 28 assists, nine digs, three blocks and four service aces. Lexie Douglas led Tulane with 16 kills but committed 10 errors for a .140 clip.

ECU tied its season high for total blocks, racking up 17 as redshirt sophomore Sydney Hall recorded eight and senior Toya Osuegbu ended up with seven. The Pirates hit .204 overall and limited the Green Wave to .187 in that aspect. The home team also collected 63 kills to ECU's 57 while holding a 74-66 advantage in total digs.

East Carolina hit just .103 in the opening set compared to Tulane's .480 clip. The Green Wave began to pull away in the middle portion, going ahead 14-9 following an ace. The Pirates could not catch up as Tulane captured the frame by double figures.

The second stanza ended up much closer but ECU could not hold on late. A block afforded the Pirates an 18-15 lead, but a 7-2 run propelled the home team to a 22-20 advantage. Following an East Carolina timeout, the Pirates scored two straight to force a tie. However, the Green Wave claimed three of the final four points to take a two-set edge into the intermission.

ECU started to come alive in the third set, building a 12-10 cushion following a block. That would be the theme as a big solo stuff by Osuegbu pushed the Pirates further in front at 18-13. Tulane had no answer the rest of the way and East Carolina won it easily by eight points.

The Green Wave built an 11-5 lead in the fourth but the Pirates were not nearly done. East Carolina found its groove and turned a 13-6 deficit into a 19-15 advantage off the strong serving of Harmon. Tulane fought back to tie the set at 22 and it became a race to the finish. ECU was able to stave off a pair of match points and put down three-straight kills to win it by a deuce.

It was all Pirates in the fifth set as they left no doubt which side would emerge victorious. Harmon began the proceedings with a solo stuff at the net and East Carolina raced out to a 3-0 lead. A kill by junior Kaiya Heyliger-Powell increased the upper hand to 6-1 and the Green Wave used its first timeout. A Tulane attacking error allowed the Pirates to reach 10 with a seven-point lead but the home team rallied with four-straight points to cut its deficit to three. Kleinman took over the match from there, putting down three-straight kills to put ECU two points away from victory. Another Kleinman kill took the contest to match point before a Green Wave attacking error finished the job.

The Pirates will finally play in front of their home crowd this Friday when they host SMU at 7 p.m. In an odd scheduling quirk, East Carolina was made to play six of its first eight American Conference matches on the road.