BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Having seen UAB erase a two-set deficit and take a 9-4 lead in the fifth set Sunday, East Carolina had the last word on Sunday.
The Pirates ended the match on an 11-4 run to down the home side 3-2 (25-18, 25-17, 23-25, 24-26, 15-13) and complete the American Athletic Conference weekend series sweep inside Bartow Arena.
Teams with postseason aspirations learn to win on the road and the Pirates (11-3, 2-1 AAC) have done that four times in five tries this campaign. The Blazers (2-13, 0-3 AAC), desperate to snap a now nine-match losing streak, fired at uncharacteristically high percentages in the third and fourth sets (.302 and .244) to win both frames by the slimmest of margins, but reverted back to the norm in the decider (.100).
East Carolina out-hit the hosts .282 to .227 on the day and pretty much dominated the stat sheet in several categories – including kills (63-56), digs (69-64) and total blocks (9.0-6.0). The sides ended up with 10 aces apiece while the Pirates ended up siding out at 61.4-percent efficiency as compared to UAB’s 54.1 percent showing.
Sophomore outside hitter Angeles Alderete notched a squad-best 14 kills and completed her fourth double-double of the season by tallying 13 digs. Senior right side hitter Fran McBride, who terminated the final volleyball of the day, willed ECU to victory with an energetic 10 kills, three blocks and a .400 hitting percentage. Sophomore middle blocker Carlia Northcross was also a key cog in the win, finishing with nine kills on 13 attempts with no errors for a .692 hitting mark. She also registered five blocks.
Set One: A Blazer attacking error saw East Carolina build a 9-4 advantage in the opener. UAB made things close for a bit, drawing within 11-10, but the Pirates would eventually pull away as Alderete came up with a solo stuff to make it 15-12 at the media timeout and provided the Purple and Gold ample cushion to win the set by seven.
Set Two: It was all ECU all the time in the second stanza. A kill on the second ball by Julianna Askew pushed the Pirates in front 13-6, forcing the Blazers to scramble for a timeout. East Carolina kept it rolling from there, rolling up leads of 19-11 and 22-13 before settling for the eight-point victory.
Set Three: Looking to put the match away in three for the second-straight day, the Pirates led 17-14 following an Alderete ace before Alyssa Finister made it 22-18 with a kill. However, ECU stalled from there and allowed UAB to get its offense in gear. The Blazers would end the set on a 7-1 run to extend the match.
Set Four: The fourth was an all-out battle throughout. An attacking error by UAB propelled East Carolina ahead 19-16 but the Pirates ultimately were unable to hold on. A service miscue briefly put ECU at match point leading 24-23, but an Alderete attacking error and two Kelsey Smith aces saw the Blazers steal another frame and send the match the distance.
Set Five: With the momentum solely on UAB’s side of the net, the Blazers raced out to a seemingly insurmountable five-point cushion at 9-4. That’s when Izzy Marinelli decided enough was enough. She would rip off three kills as part of a 6-1 Pirate run that deadlocked the score at 10. Chloe Rodriguez afforded UAB an 11-10 edge with a kill of her own, but a service error, block by McBride and Farah Farooq as well as an Askew ace, quickly pushed East Carolina in front by two. The teams would trade points the rest of the way as McBride ended the match with a kill on the right side. The Blazer coaching staff attempted to challenge, saying McBride touched the net on her swing, but a quick review put that notion to bed and sent the Pirates home victorious.
Up Next: ECU returns to Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum Sept. 29-30 for a pair of matches with AAC newcomer Florida Atlantic. The Pirates and Owls will do battle Friday at 6 p.m. before wrapping up the set Saturday at Noon.