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Ceriani 'killin' it' with Pirates

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East Carolina senior hitter Lael Ceriani goes for a kill against Tulsa in Minges Coliseum on Oct. 1.


The Daily Reflector

Friday, October 13, 2017

Transfer stories in college athletics can have storybook endings, and East Carolina volleyball senior Lael Ceriani is on that track.

The San Diego native played her first two seasons at Tennessee-Martin and wanted to go elsewhere, which led her to ECU. She was mainly a reserve last year, but is now enjoying a breakout senior season for the Pirates, who are on a three-match win streak and tied for third place in the American Athletic Conference heading into tonight’s home matchup against Tulane.

Ceriani is the only of the Pirates’ five seniors who didn’t sign with ECU out of high school.

“Last year I guess I wasn’t as confident, but now I wish I would have been here all four years,” said the left-handed Ceriani, whose 225 kills lead ECU and rank seventh in the AAC. “It just feels like home.”

It’s not easy for a person from San Diego to describe Greenville as home, but, according to Pirate middle hitter and fellow senior Natalie Montini, Ceriani is a natural fit in eastern North Carolina.

“She came in two years ago and fit just like a glove,” Montini said.

ECU (12-6) follows tonight’s match by hosting Houston on Sunday in Minges Coliseum. The Pirates got a big boost last weekend with road wins against Temple and Connecticut to improve to 4-2 through six conference games.

The senior class has been key the whole year, but the underclassmen are also talented and building confidence. Sophomore libero Brandee Markwith holds great value, and freshman Bri Wood was named AAC offensive player of the week on Monday for the Pirates’ first such honor since 2015.

ECU’s 12 overall wins are tied for second-most among American clubs.

“It’s honestly very humbling (being in third place),” said Montini, who also pointed out that the Pirates were picked 11th out of 12 teams in the league’s preseason poll. “It’s just one of those things where we have come in hungry and want to just keep working to get to this point. It’s not something that has ever happened in the past four years or even thought of potentially happening, so it is just super humbling.

“It’s exciting to see where this program can go, not only for this season, but in the future.”

The future looks bright for ECU volleyball and coach Julie Torbett, but there isn’t much time remaining for the seniors.

Four of them were freshmen in 2014 when ECU finished 15-16.

The other — Ceriani — had no clue she would end up being part of this potentially historic Pirate team.

“I didn’t think a whole lot of it at the time, other than I knew the program was growing and I wanted to be a part of that,” Ceriani said. “It’s great here.”

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