East Carolina University volleyball (2-4,0,0 American Athletic Conference) will host the Pirate Invitational with Appalachian State University (3-6 Sunbelt Conference), Gardner-Webb University (3-4 Big South Conference) and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (2-15 Western Conference) on Sept. 17 through Sept. 18 in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
ECU will kick off the Pirate Invitational with its first game of the weekend at 1:30 p.m. against Gardner-Webb. ECU last played the Bulldogs on Sept. 20, 2019, and won 3-1. In total, ECU has won four out of five games against Gardner-Webb between 2011-2019.
Next, the Pirates will have the last game of Friday and will take on UTRGV at 7:30 p.m. ECU volleyball has never played against the Vaquero’s who have a .556 hitting average. Pirate volleyball will then play in the final game of the invitational against Appalachian State at 3 p.m. on Saturday. ECU last played Appalachian State in 2013 winning 3-1.
A total of six volleyball games will take place in Minges Coliseum this weekend, the first one between Appalachian State and UTRGV Friday at 11 a.m. The third game of the Friday session will take place between Gardner-Webb and Appalachian State at 5 p.m. The two teams have not faced each other since 2015 with Appalachian taking the win.
The first game to commence the Saturday portion of the invitational will be at noon between UTRGV and Gardner-Webb, the tournament will end with ECU facing Appalachian State.
Last weekend, the Pirates played in the Chanticleer Classic in Conway, South Carolina where the team took a loss against Coastal Carolina University who currently stand at (6-2, 0-0 Sunbelt Conference). However, the Pirates managed to redeem itself when it challenged Radford University (2-7, 0-0 Big South Conference) and won 3-0.
The final game the Pirates played while in Conway took place against the University of North Carolina Wilmington (1-7, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Association), with the Pirates winning 3-0. ECU is coming off two wins as it enters the Pirate Invitational and plans to play in its first home games of the season.
Stand out seniors helped lead the team to its successes last weekend. Senior outside hitter Sydney Kleinman managed to make a total of 42 kills between the three games and hit a .373 when ECU played Radford. Kleinman’s teammate senior outside hitter Natalie Tyson was ranked third of the squad in 2020 and managed to pull in a .457 when ECU took on Coastal last weekend.
Sophomore middle blocker Priscilla Jones made five kills when ECU last took on Coastal and four when the team took on Radford. Fellow teammate freshman middle blocker Amelia Davis played in the team’s last three games and managed to rack up a total of 16 kills in the Chanticleer Classic.
The Pirates first opponent of the weekend Gardner-Webb last faced South Carolina State (0-5, 0-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) with Gardner-Webb winning 3-0. The Bulldogs hit a .221, 33 kills and 95 attacks while it took on South Carolina State. Sophomore outside hitter Mikah McIntosh and sophomore right side Madison Deslatte both hit a .357 and made seven kills in their last game for Gardner-Webb. Meanwhile, Gardner is not the only team entering the invitational fresh off a win.
Appalachian volleyball last took on Wake Forest (7-2, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) with Wake Forest winning over the mountaineers 1-3. Victoria Wilform, a senior outside hitter for Appalachian, made 14 kills in the team’s last game, a season-best for the team.
Appalachian wrapped up the game against Wake Forest hitting a .191, 56 kills and 14 blocks.
Unlike Gardner-Webb and Appalachian State, the third opponent on the Pirate Invitationals is not from North Carolina. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, a University in Edinburg, Texas, has never faced any of the teams it will be challenged to face this weekend. The team lost their last game on Sept. 12 against the Texas A&M- Corpus Christi (3-5, 0-0 Southland Conference) the final score 3-1.
The Texas team finished the game with a total of 60 kills, six blocks and 66 digs. Junior outside hitter Sarah Cruz made 19 kills for the Vaqueros and hit a .390 and made four kills. Cruz earned the title of Team Honors along with her teammate freshman setter Luanna Emiliano after consecutive well-executed performances in UTRGV games.
With two of three teams coming in off a win, there potentially could be a fierce rivalry in Minges this weekend. Students and those who can will be able to watch ECU play in their first home games of the year. All of the ECU games will be covered ESPN+ via live stream for those who can not attend in person.
When the Pirate Invitational comes to an end, the Pirates will travel to Orlando, Florida, to take on the University of Central Florida currently (4-5, 0-0 NCAA). The game will take place on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.