Rally falls short as Pirates fall to Tulane in five sets

ECU Pirates

(ECU Sports Information photo)

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina nearly pulled off the reverse sweep of Tulane Friday night, but the Green Wave held on for a 3-2 (25-21, 25-23, 25-27, 17-25, 15-6) American Athletic Conference victory inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

Tulane (13-8, 6-3 AAC) hit .286 or better in four of the five sets, including a .545 showing in the deciding frame, finishing at .329 on the strength of 71 kills. Conversely, ECU (7-11, 3-6 AAC) turned in its best hitting effort of the league season by firing at a .267 clip with 59 kills. The teams combined for 16 service aces while the Green Wave held the statistical upper hand in digs (60-54) and total blocks (8.0-7.0).

Senior outside hitter Bri Wood notched a double-double of 16 kills and 12 digs to go along with a .300 hitting percentage. She needed just four digs in the match to become the sixth player in program history to record 1,000 kills and digs, doing so with exactly four in the first stanza. Classmate and outside hitter Sydney Kleinman put up 21 kills and eight digs as well as two service aces while freshman setter Payton Evenstad produced a nice match with 28 assists, eight digs and a career-best four aces. Additionally, freshman libero Tia Shum also set a personal best of 21 digs and freshman middle blocker Amelia Davis put down eight kills on 10 swings with no errors to hit a stout .800.

Tulane’s Lexie Douglas paced all players with 26 kills and committed just four errors on 47 attempts for a sparkling .468 hitting percentage. Taylor Heningsman fell just short of a double-double, contributing 62 assists and nine digs.

Set One: The Green Wave raced out to a 9-3 lead and later extended it to 20-12 before the Pirates made a little bit of a run and sliced their deficit to 22-17 following a Douglas attacking error. ECU was unable to complete the comeback, dropping the frame by four.

Set Two: The teams played a much tighter set in the second, settling for a tie at 13. A kill by Michelle Urquhart and a Pirate attacking error gave the visitors a slight edge at the media timeout, but East Carolina ripped off five-straight points to push in front by three. The Pirates were ahead by as much as four at 20-16 after a Jennings Hall ace. However, Tulane was able to erase ECU’s advantage and win the set by a pair to grab a 2-0 match lead at the intermission.

Set Three: The Green Wave broke open a close third stanza, scoring six of the next eight points following a 10-10 deadlock to seize control. Tulane looked poised to complete the sweep as a kill by Douglas made the score 22-17, but the Pirates put together a 6-1 run off the serving of Evenstad to eventually pull even at 23. ECU was able to fight off two set points to stay alive before netting the final three to extend the match to a fourth frame.

Set Four: With the score deadlocked at 10 in the fourth, a Green Wave attacking error sparked a 5-1 Pirate run that put the momentum on East Carolina’s side. Another strong serving run by Evenstad put the set beyond doubt as ECU rolled to the eight-point victory.

Set Five: The Pirates seemed to run out of steam in the decider, allowing Tulane to roll out to an 8-1 advantage. East Carolina was unable to recover, and the Green Wave escaped Greenville with the victory.

Up Next: East Carolina hosts Houston Sunday at Noon. The Cougars picked up a 3-1 win at Cincinnati earlier Friday evening.

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