GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU) – East Carolina fired on all cylinders Friday night, registering an emphatic 3-0 (25-14, 25-19, 25-14) American Athletic Conference victory over the University of South Florida before a lively crowd of 912 inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
The Pirates snagged their first league win of the season, improving to 13-3 overall and 1-2 in AAC contests, while the Bulls dropped to 7-10 and 1-2. ECU tallied its first-ever sweep over USF, cutting the Bulls’ series lead to 10-5, while also matching last season’s 13-victory total.
East Carolina recorded its highest single-match hitting percentage in an American Conference match since joining the league in 2014, putting down 52 kills on 102 attempts with only seven errors for a .441 mark. It was also the fourth-highest single-match attacking percentage in program history. ECU limited USF to 29 kills and .187 efficiency while also out-digging the visitors 46-31.
“I thought it was a great win against a good AAC opponent,” head coach Julie Torbett said. “I felt like our offense was really clicking as we made very few hitting errors and got a lot of kills. That is something we have really been working towards. Everyone dominated in their different roles tonight.”
Junior outside hitter Sydney Kleinman was spectacular, exploding for 19 kills and a .586 hitting percentage, while junior right side Bri Wood notched 11 kills and a .435 attacking mark. Redshirt junior libero Brandee Markwith reached a career milestone, not only collecting her first-ever double-double with 10 assists and 10 digs, but also moving into fourth place on the program top-10 list by increasing her three-season total to 1,346. Junior setters Shelby Martin and Marissa Harmon ran an efficient offense with 18 and 12 assists respectively. Lindsey Pliapol paced the Bulls with 14 kills and a .387 offensive clip.
“Our attackers really knew where to hit the ball and had a lot of shots available thanks to the game plan and our scout. We have been talking over and over about executing and frustrating our opponent and we obviously did that tonight.”
Markwith unleashed an ace early in the opening set, one of her three in the match, to give the Pirates a 7-3 advantage. The Bulls would draw within 8-6, but East Carolina kept the pressure on and used consecutive kills by redshirt sophomore middle blocker Sydney Hall to stake claim to a 16-10 lead. USF called for time in an attempt to slow the Pirates’ momentum. However, an attacking error by Jac’cara Walker eventually made the score 21-11 and ECU went on to grab the stanza by double digits.
The second frame was close in the beginning stages, but the Pirates began to pull away and broke a 4-4 deadlock with a 7-2 run that put them in front 11-6. Following a Bulls’ timeout, East Carolina scored six of the next 10 points and stretched its advantage to 17-10 on a Natalie Tyson kill. With the Pirates ahead 20-10, USF mounted a rally and drew within 22-18. However, ECU won three of the last four rallies to emerge with a six-point victory and two-set lead at the intermission.
The Pirates never let the Bulls into the third set, racing out to a 4-0 cushion on a USF serving error and three kills. A big stuff by senior middle blocker Toya Osuegbu and junior outside hitter Kaiya Heyliger-Powell allowed East Carolina to enjoy a 12-5 lead as the Pirates applied even more pressure in serve-receive. The ECU upper hand increased to double figures at 18-8 following a Kleinman kill and it was all East Carolina from there as Kleinman later finished the Bulls off with a kill down the line.
The Pirates return to the court in Minges Coliseum Sunday when they face defending AAC champion UCF at Noon. The Knights were swept at Cincinnati earlier Friday afternoon.