The East Carolina University volleyball team completed its season sweep over Memphis University on Sunday after regrouping from a loss to No. 20 Wichita State Friday.
The Pirates (19-10, 10-6 AAC) were able to check off their second goal of the weekend, defeating the Tigers (9-19, 2-14 AAC) in three straight sets, 25-23, 28-26, 25-23. The Pirates also defeated the Tigers on Oct. 20 in three sets, giving the Pirates the 6-0 set sweep on the season.
ECU saw solid play on both offense and defense from middle hitters Natalie Montini and Toya Osuegbu, who added 15 kills and 11 kills respectively. They also combined for seven of the team’s 11 blocks. Freshman setter Shelby Martin performed well too, adding 35 assists.
Coming off of one of its toughest performances of the season, Montini said ECU’s win over Memphis proved her team is a resilient group that will not quit.
“I think it says a lot about us, that we are not going to give up just after a bad performance, and we are going to come out and give it our all,” Montini said. “Overall, it showed we are really gritty and we are determined to do better this season.”
Pirates’ head coach Julie Torbett said she was proud of the way both Montini and Osuegbu played and added their play wouldn’t have been possible without the great play from Martin.
“I thought the middles played really well, they were able to score, and you have got to be able to pass well to be able to run the middles,” Torbett said. “We have a freshman setter, and I thought she did a really good job of taking those maybe riskier sets a little bit, and the middles were up, and she found them.”
The Pirates opened the weekend with a tough task ahead of them, facing a Wichita State (23-3, 15-0 AAC) team that has lost just three matches all season, none of which came from its American Athletic Conference opponents.
ECU fell in straight sets Friday (25-13, 25-16, 25-14). ECU also fell to the same Wichita State team in three sets on Oct. 22. ECU was unable to match up to the height of the Shockers and its hitting percentage reflected it— .108 compared to the .400 hit of Wichita State.
Torbett said she believed her team played better against the Shockers their first time around, but acknowledged that as one of the top teams in the country, as well as the best team in the conference, Wichita State would provide her team with some problems that she wished were addressed better.
“They are loaded, you know, they have a great setter, and they’ve been used to winning for a long time,” Torbett said. “I think that just breeds the mentality of winning. It is tough to play against a team like that, but I feel like we could have played better against them. I think we played better the first time around, and we are going to have to find ways, because they are in our conference and they are here to stay.”
The Pirates were led offensively by senior outside hitter Ashton Mares with seven kills. This weekend she also tied Stephanie Turner for 10th in ECU volleyball history with 1,016 digs, and is also just 36 kills away from being just the fifth player in school history to have both 1,000 career digs and kills. Her 964 kills on her career place her at ninth in ECU history.
Coming off its tough loss to Wichita State, Mares said there was no pressure heading into the match against the Shockers to pull off an upset.
“I think we kind of just tell each other to relax,” Mares said about seeing Wichita State go on a run. “For this game we just thought, if we beat them that’s a big deal, they are supposed to beat us, so let’s just play relaxed. Sometimes it doesn’t work out how we want it to, but we just kind of try to relax each other, and try not to do too much.”
The Pirates will look to build off their three set sweep of Memphis as they travel to Houston to take on the University of Houston on Nov. 20 as they look to clinch their fourth-20-win-season in program history.