GREENVILLE, N.C. – Memphis had little answer for ECU’s middle hitters Sunday afternoon as the Pirates downed the Tigers 3-0 (25-23, 28-26, 25-23) in an American Athletic Conference volleyball match inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
Team Records: ECU (19-10, 10-6 AAC) | Memphis (9-19, 2-14 AAC)
Senior Natalie Montini and sophomore Toya Osuegbu terrorized the Tigers all match long, putting down 15 and 11 kills with respective .524 and .476 hitting percentages. The duo also combined for nine blocks. Sophomore libero Brandee Markwith tallied a match-high 15 digs and notched a pair of aces. Hannah Flowers and Tai Bierria paced the Memphis offense with 11 kills apiece.
The Pirates out-hit the Tigers .263 to .231 while also ending up with more digs (46-43), aces (5-1) and total blocks (11.0 – 6.0). ECU also limited Memphis to 42 sideouts on 78 opportunities (53 percent).
Torbett’s Take: “It was disappointing that we let Memphis dictate some portions of the match, but I liked how resilient the team was in finishing them off late in each set. Natalie and Toya really carried us through today when other players were struggling. I also want to commend our setter Shelby Martin for making some good sets on some tough balls.”
Set One: The Tigers pulled ahead 7-4 after a Bierria kill, but ECU scored three straight to tie things up. An ace by senior outside hitter Ashton Mares propelled the Pirates to a 13-10 advantage before a solo block by Mares made it 20-16 in favor of the Purple and Gold later in the frame. Flowers put down a kill to afford Memphis a 22-21 late, but ECU came up with four of the last five points.
Set Two: In a second stanza that featured 13 ties and five lead changes, the Tigers led 15-12 midway through. The Pirates began to chip away at the lead and used a 6-2 run to claim the upper hand at 18-17. With the score later tied at 20, a scramble ensued into extra points before Montini ended the marathon with an ace.
Set Three: Memphis sprinted out to a sizable lead in the third, establishing a 15-7 cushion following a kill by Flowers. Undeterred, ECU fought back and scored 10 of the next 12 points to draw even at 17-17. The Pirates kept the foot on the gas, extending the run three more points to snatch a 20-17 lead. A kill by Osuegbu put ECU at match point, 24-20, before the Tigers netted three straight to rally within a point. Martin would end the match with a kill, sealing the sweep.
News and Notes
The Pirates completed their second season series sweep of an AAC opponent this season (Memphis and USF).
ECU has won 10 matches in conference play for the first time since 2006. The Pirates also doubled last season’s victory total in the league after only winning five AAC contests in 2016.
The three-set triumph marked the first time ECU has recorded two sweeps over the same American Conference opponent in a single season.
Mares tied Stephanie Turner for 10th on the program career chart with 1,016 digs. Mares is just 36 kills away from becoming the fifth player in school history to notch 1,000 career kills and digs. She is also ninth on the career list for kills at 964.
Markwith increased her career digs total to 988, just 12 away from becoming the 12th member of the ECU 1,000-dig club.
The 2017 squad is now 10th in program history in single-season assists (1,311) and block assists (356).
The Pirates need just one victory to notch their first 20-win season since 2005.
Up Next: ECU begins a three-match road swing next Friday at Houston.