ECU volleyball opens season

Published 2:35 pm Tuesday, August 12, 2014

ECU Athletic Media Relations

GREENVILLE — The East Carolina volleyball team held its first official practice of the fall season Monday with 26 days to prepare for their first match. The Pirates open the season hosting the East Carolina Invitational beginning Friday, Sept. 5.

In addition to returning eight players from a year ago, the Pirates welcome seven newcomers: four incoming freshmen and three transfers.

“We haven’t played in a competitive environment since November, so it’s always fun to get back on the court,” head coach Julie Torbett said. “We have a bunch of new players so it’s exciting to see what they can do. They’ve been working out hard during the summer with strength and conditioning, so being able to see what they can do on the volleyball court is always exciting.”

Setter Zarah Cecich leads the returners as the lone senior on the squad. The Crown Point, Ind., native is currently ranked seventh in the ECU career record book with 1,871 career assists after leading the Pirates in 2013 with 839 helpers. Joining Cecich on the court is junior middle blocker Kierra Lee-Dunson, who led the team with 103 total blocks to average 0.91 blocks per set. Lee-Dunson also added 181 kills (1.60 per set) and a .284 hitting percentage. Torre Blake, a junior outside hitter, finished third on the team with 197 kills to average 1.88 per set. She also contributed 72 digs and 50 total blocks.

Sophomore Bella Borgiotti will split setter duties with Cecich. Borgiotti saw action in 49 sets as a freshman and finished the season with 276 assists to average 5.63 per set. She also added 88 digs (1.80 per set), 27 kills (0.55 per set) and 22 total blocks (0.45 per set).

Defensively, the Pirates are armed with junior defensive specialist Erika Figueroa, who concluded her sophomore campaign with 203 digs to average 2.07 per set. Figueroa will be the veteran defensive player as freshman Alex Jessett and junior transfer Lauren Bewick will also round out the Pirates’ back row. Jessett comes to ECU from Katy, Texas, where she competed for the Houston Juniors Club team and was named defensive MVP in 2011 and garnered Houston Skyline Juniors defensive team Most Valuable Player honors. Bewick is a Winterville, N.C., native who transferred to ECU after playing two years at Campbell. The D.H. Conley High School product played 31 matches for the Camels and finished the year with 230 digs to average 1.85 per set.

“We have a lot of exciting new players coming in. We have a 6-foot-4 opposite in Alex Johnson. I think she’s going to be fun to watch develop as she gets stronger and plays at this level and this pace. Torre (Blake) has been winning in a lot of the physical exercises that we’re doing like the mile and sprint work. So she’s obviously in really good shape. Kierra (Lee-Dunson), I think, is going to have a breakout year. I think we do have a lot of new and exciting faces coming in.

“Zarah (Cecich) has been really strong and steady as our only senior,” Torbett continued. “It’s such a team sport, you have to have at least seven or eight solid players in order to be successful. So I’m hoping those others will emerge after the next couple of days and we can start to formulate some lineups and that kind of thing.”

In their first workout of the season, Torbett’s team went through a lot of conditioning in addition to getting on the court and practicing. The day included a one-mile run in the morning, followed by a team meeting, a pair of two-hour training sessions separated by a lunch break and a two-hour practice followed by a team meeting. The Pirates will continue the rigorous practice schedule throughout the preseason as they look to improve upon last season’s 13-19 overall record.

“I think that we are going to need to stay focused on working really hard and making improvements within the program and not look around and see what everyone else is doing,” Torbett explained. “I know that a lot of programs started on Friday or Saturday based on when their school starts. This is the first day we were able to start. We have a long preseason and we don’t play the opening weekend. So I feel like we have a little extra time to get that preparation for our home tournament.

“I know we work really hard as far as how we put together our season and I think that will pay off in the long run,” Torbett stated. “Right now, it can be a daunting task, but we as Pirates strive to be undaunted to follow our theme and mission here. So they’re going to need to adopt that philosophy as we push through each day of preseason. I’m excited to be the one steering the ship and pushing them along. I know they’ll come through on the other side better and stronger and hopefully we’ll come together as a good volleyball program.”