SMU Downs East Carolina, 3-0

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina fell to league leader SMU 3-0 (22-25, 16-25, 11-25) Sunday afternoon in an American Athletic Conference volleyball match at Minges Coliseum. The Mustangs took over sole possession of first place with the victory thanks to Tulsa’s 3-1 victory at then co-leader Cincinnati.

Team Records: East Carolina: (14-10, 4-10 AAC) | SMU: (19-7, 12-2 AAC)

Torbett’s Take: “We had some good moments today but SMU is a great team who played extremely well. Ashley McRae was absolutely phenomenal tonight against the best team in the league. She is the best middle in the conference in my opinion. We have hit a tough stretch here but I will not let the team stop working to reach our goals – many of which are still attainable.”

The Rundown: McRae turned in one of the best offensive performances in program history, tallying 16 kills on 24 attempts without an error to finish with a .667 hitting percentage. She is the first Pirate player since 2010 (Jackie Varnum – 12k/0e/17ta vs. Rutgers) to finish a match with at least 12 kills and no attacking errors. Senior setter Sabrina Gonzalez collected 27 assists and seven digs while classmate and outside hitter Sydney Darden paced the defense with nine digs.

Janelle Giordano led the Mustangs offensively with 15 kills to go along with a pair of blocks. In the back row, Morgan Heise topped all players in digs by finishing with 18.

SMU put together an efficient offensive performance, putting down 48 kills on 97 attempts with 10 errors for a .392 hitting percentage. Conversely, ECU hit .138 on 28 kills in 94 attempts while committing 15 attacking errors. The Mustangs also out-dug the Pirates 44-32 and held the upper hand in the blocking column (3.0-0.0)

Set One: East Carolina started off the match on a positive note, scoring six of the first nine points before SMU rallied to knot the score at nine. The Mustangs began to pull ahead and forced the Pirates to take a timeout after a Brittany Adams kill gave her team an 18-15 advantage. SMU started to pull away, leading 20-15 following an ECU ball-handling error, but the Pirates dug down and ripped off a 4-1 run that culminated in a Mustang timeout. SMU settled down from there and a Lauren Mills kill ended the set in the Mustangs’ favor.

Set Two: The teams traded the first two points before the visitors put together a big push to establish a 13-5 advantage. The lead grew all the way to 16-6 before a kill by senior outside hitter I’Tiana Taylor ended the run. East Carolina cut its deficit to 17-9 a few rallies later but could not stop SMU’s momentum, as the Mustangs were able to grab the frame and take a 2-0 lead into the intermission.

Set Three: SMU sprinted out to an 11-2 lead in the final stanza and hit .407 to seal the victory. An attacking error by Aubry Hinners made it 16-7 before the Mustangs notched nine of the final 13 points.

Bits and Pieces: SMU improved its record to 7-3 in true road matches while East Carolina dropped to 2-6 at home ... The Mustangs extended their lead in the all-time series to 12-4 ... ECU needs just two victories in its final six matches to record its first winning season since 2006 ... Of the Pirates’ remaining six contests, four are against teams East Carolina defeated in the first half of conference play (UConn, Tulane, Houston and Memphis).

Up Next: ECU heads north next weekend for AAC matches at UConn and Temple.