ECU opens Pirate Invitational with sweep of Eastern Washington

ECU Pirates

The ECU offense operated in midseason form Thursday evening as it opened the Pirate Invitational and its home schedule with a 3-0 (25-17, 28-26, 25-21) victory over Eastern Washington inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

ECU has swept four-straight opponents, running their set win streak to 12. The last time the Pirates captured four-straight matches by a 3-0 margin was back in 2013.

“I was pleased with our performance tonight,” head coach Julie Torbett said. “We held firm when things were tight in that second set and it was nice to see us finish it off. We have a young team but I think they are continuing to figure some things out.”

ECU (6-2) hit a season-best .352 in the win with 53 kills on 103 attempts and only 16 attacking errors while the Eagles (5-3) fired at a .215 clip with 34 kills on 93 attempts and 14 errors. The Pirates also won the defensive battle, racking up 35 digs to Eastern Washington’s 30, as well as holding the upper hand in total blocks (6.0-5.0).

Junior middle blocker Toya Osuegbu tallied a match-high 12 kills and a .364 hitting percentage in leading three ECU players in double figures in the kill column. Freshman outside hitter Natalie Tyson and sophomore outside hitter Bri Wood collected 11 and 10 kills apiece. Also playing an important role in the triumph was freshman middle blocker S’mara Riley who filled up the stat sheet to the tune of nine kills, four blocks and a .500 hitting percentage. Kamille Langford paced the Eagles with 11 kills.

Eastern Washington held an early 7-6 lead in the first set before the Pirates responded with four-straight points to pull in front 10-7. A kill by Osuegbu extended the advantage to 16-11 later in the frame and prompted the Eagles to call their first timeout of the night. EWU scored three straight out of the break, but a kill by sophomore outside hitter Sydney Kleinman sparked a 3-0 ECU run to give the Purple and Gold its five-point lead back. Riley provided the final three kills of the stanza for the Pirates as they took it by seven points.

The Eagles were the aggressors as the second set commenced, rolling to a 5-2 lead. However, a block by Osuegbu and Tyson quickly tied the score at seven. With Eastern Washington later ahead 10-8, the Pirates ripped off a 12-2 run that seemingly put them in control at 20-12 but the Eagles had an answer. EWU responded by scoring 13 of the next 17 points to put itself at set point, 25-24. The Eagles had two chances to end it, but a Riley kill knotted the score at 26 before junior defensive specialist Brianna Hudson recorded an ace and forced a bad pass and set to let ECU escape with the set win in extra points.

It was all Pirates to begin the third frame as a Wood kill made it 7-2 in the home team’s favor. ECU kept rolling, stretching the cushion to 20-11 after an Eastern Washington attacking error. The Eagles rallied one last time, drawing within 23-19, but kills by Tyson and Osuegbu put the visitors away for good.

The Pirates are back in action Friday with matches against Gardner-Webb at Noon and Charlotte at 7 p.m. The 49ers defeated the Runnin’ Bulldogs 3-0 in Thursday’s first contest. 

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