East Carolina volleyball team falls in AAC home opener

ECU Pirates

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – South Florida out-hit East Carolina .268 to .190 Thursday night on the way to a 3-1 (25-20, 13-25, 25-20, 25-19) American Athletic Conference victory inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

The Pirates (1-3, 0-3 AAC) rung up a 9.0-3.0 advantage in the blocking column, but the Bulls (4-3, 2-1 AAC) held the upper hand in kills (60-44). ECU also compiled 69 digs to the visitors’ 67. In the pivotal third set, South Florida fired at a sizzling .568 clip with 22 kills on 37 attempts to seize control of the match.

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Running a 6-2 offense for the first time this season, East Carolina received 23 assists and nine digs from setter Janiece Jefferies as well as 18 assists and six digs by Alisi Motu’apuaka. Bri Wood paced the club in kills with 14 while also collecting 14 digs for her fourth double-double of the season. Sydney Kleinman fell just short of a double-double herself, racking up nine kills and 17 digs.

Marta Cvitkovic and Agata Plaga turned in a match-high 16 kills each while setter Maria Idjilov secured a double-double of 34 assists and 14 digs.

With the teams tied at seven early in the first set, a kill by Cvitkovic sparked a 4-1 run that gave the Bulls some breathing room. Motu’apuaka kept ECU close with an ace that made the score 16-15, but USF was able to take the next two rallies and move in front by three once more. The Pirates would draw within 18-16 following a block, however, could not come any closer the rest of the frame.

The second stanza was all East Carolina as it rung up a 9-4 lead and forced an early South Florida timeout. The Pirates kept the pressure on and built the cushion all the way to 16-9 after a kill by Sydney Hall. Kleinman but the Bulls away at the service line, staying there eight-straight times to help ECU race to the finish line.

USF jumped out to an 8-3 advantage in the third following a Pirate attacking error. East Carolina used its second timeout of the set facing a 15-8 deficit but could not quite catch up in the end.

ECU fell behind 5-1 as the fourth set began and used a timeout in an attempt to stunt the Bulls’ momentum. South Florida led by as much as 10-5 before the Pirates turned up the pressure and ripped off a 7-3 run to slice their deficit to one. East Carolina kept itself in the match late as a block by Natalie Tyson and S’mara Riley made it a two-point stanza, 21-19, but Cvitkovic put down three kills and teamed up with Ally Barnhart for a block to seal the win.

Up Next: ECU and USF will close their two-match set Friday afternoon at 2 p.m.

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