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400 and counting for Torbett

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East Carolina volleyball coach Julie Torbett, right, laughs with players while watching a video celebrating her 400th career win Tuesday after beating N.C. Central in Minges Coliseum. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Regarded as a demanding, successful and players-first volleyball coach, East Carolina’s Julie Torbett was thinking about all of the players she has coached just minutes after her 400th career victory Tuesday and when asked to reflect on the accomplishment.

ECU gave Torbett win No. 400 in her 24th season as a head coach (fifth with the Pirates) with a sweep of N.C. Central on Tuesday afternoon as part of a doubleheader in Minges Coliseum. Ashton Mares, Lael Ceriani, Bri Wood and others rolled to an easy victory over the Eagles to put the Pirates at 7-4 through 11 matches, and then the players turned to Torbett to celebrate.

The coach soaked in the moment that included a surprise video tribute, but she also tried to deflect praise.

“I didn’t win any of them. It’s my players,” Torbett said. “Through 24 years, there have been a lot of players and just seeing that video and having a lot of my former players congratulate me meant a lot to me. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“You get to these milestones and they are very special. I’m going to enjoy it, for sure, but you have to move on and keep going.”

The 25-15, 25-15, 25-9 sweep of NCCU ended on a block by ECU’s Toya Osuegbu, who was the first player to raise her hands and yell “400!” to Torbett after going through the postgame handshake line.

ECU led each of the first two sets 20-10 behind strong hitting by Wood, Natalie Montini and Mares. The Eagles scored the first two points of Game 3, but the Pirates quickly took over and were up 20-6 before closing out the victory.

Torbett, a Penn State player from 1986-1990, collected most of her coaching victories at UNC Asheville, where she went 304-261 in 17 seasons from 1994-2011. She is the winningest coach in Big South history thanks to her time in Asheville and two seasons at Winthrop.

Her big breakthrough at ECU came at the start of 2016, when the Pirates won their first 10 contests for the longest winning streak in school history. They finished 15-15 for the team’s first non-losing season since 2006.

“I think about how special the players have been, I really do, and all of their lives I have gotten to share,” Torbett said. “With those four years that they come to college, it is a special time because I get to know them at (age) 16 and put them out into the world at 22. Some of the girls who are over 40 years old and were on that video, I’ve known them a long time. … When I think about it that way and 400 (wins), it is magnificent because it means I have touched a lot of peoples’ lives and had successes and played a role in their lives that way.”

The Pirates’ record in 2012 — the year before Torbett’s arrival — was 2-25.

“To take over a program that really struggled for quite a few years, that was a mountain to climb, but the players are buying in and the culture has changed,” she said. “Anytime you see something like that that you know you have a part in, it is very powerful. I am very proud of that and proud of the girls and how hard they fight and are getting that gritty spirit.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.