Nicole Willis earns All-Tournament Team MVP honors
ELON, NC September 14, 2013 – The East Carolina volleyball team won the Elon Phoenix Classic Saturday night after picking up a pair of sweeps over Gardner-Webb, 3-0 [25-15, 25-23, 25-20], and host Elon, 3-0 [25-23, 25-22, 25-16]. The Pirates have recorded three-straight victories for the first time since 2009.
ECU (5-5) won its first tournament since the Pirates opened the 2008 season with three consecutive sweeps to capture the East Carolina Classic. The Pirates’ win at the Elon Phoenix Classic marks the first road tournament victory since 2005 when the Pirates won the Wofford Tournament in Spartanburg, S.C.
The Pirates had three players named to the All-Tournament Team in senior opposite hitter Nicole Willis, junior setter Zarah Cecich and sophomore middle hitter Kierra Lee-Dunson. Willis garnered MVP honors after finishing the classic with 40 kills (4.44 per set), 25 digs (2.78 per set), three blocks (0.33 per set), a trio of assists and as many service aces. Cecich paced the offense with 66 assists (7.33 per set) to go along with 12 kills (1.33 per set), 10 digs (1.11 per set) and three blocks (0.33 per set), while hitting an impressive .524. Lee-Dunson wrapped up the weekend tournament with a .433 hitting percentage, 15 kills (1.67 per set), five total blocks (0.56 per set), and two digs.
“We played really well,” Head coach Julie Torbett said. “We ran three different lineups and everyone had a chance to play this weekend. It was a real team effort.”
East Carolina started Saturday off with a .414 attack percentage against Gardner-Webb (4-7) in the first set as the Pirates collected 13 kills and held the Bulldogs to a mere .037 attack percentage in the frame. The Pirates scored first and never trailed in the set as they cruised to a 25-15 set victory. Gardner-Webb battled in the second set as the Bulldogs and Pirates exchanged leads four times. ECU managed to break a 19-19 tie on a kill from Cecich which gave the Pirates the lead for good as they went on to defeat the Bulldogs, 25-23. ECU completed the sweep of Gardner-Webb after another hard-fought match that saw 12 ties and seven lead changes. After an 18-18 tie, ECU closed out the set on a 7-2 run to win the game, 25-20.
Willis notched a double-double in the match against Gardner-Webb as she tallied a match-high 19 kills and 11 digs. The Raleigh, N.C., native hit .226 in the contest and added one block assist and a service ace. Setters Bella Borgiotti and Cecich contributed 21 and 17 assists, respectively, while Borgiotti collected 10 digs to earn her second double-double of the season. Shelby Beasley notched a match-high 12 digs in the win, while Lee-Dunson hit a match-best .556 with five kills on nine attempts without committing an error.
The Pirates came back hours after sweeping Gardner-Webb and managed to win in straight sets versus host Elon (4-7). Against the Phoenix, ECU hit .255 as a team and finished the contest with 42 kills and 46 digs. East Carolina claimed set one, 25-23, after posting 15 kills and holing the Phoenix to a .194 clip. The second set was a fight to the finish as the Pirates and Phoenix battled through 10 ties and four lead changes before ECU emerged victorious, 25-22. The ECU offense surged in the third and final set as the Pirates hit .407, knocking down 13 kills with just two attack errors in the frame. The Pirate defense was solid, as they did not allow the Phoenix to hit more than .029 in the frame. East Carolina went on to win set three by nine points, 25-16.
Willis recorded her second double-double of the day with 12 kills and 10 digs. Cecich dished out a match-high 30 assists to go along with six kills, two block assists, and one dig, while hitting a sizzling .857. Lee-Dunson finished the match with a .357 attack percentage after knocking down six kills on 14 attempts with just one miscue.
The Pirates will face NC Central for the second time in four days Tuesday, September 17, at 7 p.m., in Durham, N.C. ECU defeated the Eagles in straight sets, 3-0, Friday, September 13, at the Elon Phoenix Classic.
Notes: Senior outside hitter Whitney Campbell did not play throughout the Elon Phoenix Classic due to concussion-like symptoms…Freshman setter Bella Borgiotti exited in the final match of the tournament due to an injury.