GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina shrugged off a rough first-set performance Friday afternoon and picked up its sixth-straight win, downing American Athletic Conference opponent Memphis 3-1 (14-25, 25-18, 25-20, 25-21) to sweep the season series inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.
The Pirates (18-4, 9-2 AAC) maintained the best start in program history while tying the 2017 and 2019 squads for the most consecutive AAC victories (six) since ECU joined the league. More importantly, the Pirates are guaranteed sole possession of first place in The American East Division in advance of a crucial road trip to Rice and Tulsa next weekend.
East Carolina produced its lowest hitting percentage in a win this season (.112) but piled up 10.0 total blocks over the last three frames to help limit the Tigers (8-15, 4-7 AAC) to .136 efficiency. The Pirates also held the upper hand in total digs (69-62) and blocks (10.0-4.0).
Sophomore outside hitter Angeles Alderete finished with a second-straight double-double, tying for match-high honors in kills (13) while adding 14 digs and four blocks. Senior right side Fran McBride and freshman middle blocker Farah Farooq chipped in with six blocks apiece to go along with a contest-best 16-dig effort by junior defensive specialist Kenzie Beckham. Clara Bednarek led Memphis with 13 kills and a .370 hitting percentage.
Set One: ECU started the match brightly, utilizing a trio of kills and a Tiger attacking error to build a 4-1 advantage. Memphis fought back and eventually knotted the score at five before rattling of a 9-5 run to grab a 14-10 edge. Another Tiger attacking error helped the Pirates draw within 14-12 but Memphis started the pull away and allowed East Carolina just two more points the rest of the way. ECU committed an astounding 11 errors in the set and hit negative (-.121).
Set Two: A kill by McBride saw the Pirates inch ahead 12-8 in the second stanza before a kill by Wood afforded the Purple and Gold a 15-12 lead at the media timeout. Reilly Briggs pulled the Tigers to within 16-15 with a kill of her own but East Carolina notched six of the next seven points to establish some breathing room at 22-16. That would be enough for the Pirates to see out the frame and tie the match heading into intermission.
Set Three: The third stanza was another close tussle early. With the score deadlocked at 11, a quick 4-1 ECU run propelled the home side in front 15-12. Memphis rallied once more and eventually got on level terms at 17-17 via a Bednarek kill and the race to 25 was on. As it turns out, Brittany Wood took it upon herself to give the Pirates the momentum as she powered down three straight kills to make it 20-17. Farooq then added a service ace to push East Carolina ahead by four and force a Tiger timeout. Aulie Huff kept it moving with a kill and Memphis had nothing in terms of a response as the Pirates won the frame by five to seize control of the contest.
Set Four: ECU fell behind as the fourth set reached its middle stages, trailing 13-10 after an attacking error. The Pirates were down by as much as four at 15-11 before settling down and collecting seven of the next 10 points to deadlock things at 18. McBride extended the run with consecutive scores and East Carolina tacked on three more from there off the strong serving of Lara Uyar to put the Tigers away. Two straight attacking errors by Farooq allowed Memphis to draw within 23-20 but she righted the ship with a kill before Alderete terminated the visitors for good with her 13th and final kill.
Up Next: The Pirates head west next weekend for a pair of league matches at Rice (Oct. 27) and Tulsa (Oct. 29).