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Pirates set for unique matchup

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East Carolina volleyball coach Julie Torbett on the sideline during a match in MInges Coliseum earlier this season.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Because Wichita State joined the American Athletic Conference this year and that added to scheduling logistics, all of the AAC volleyball teams are playing the same team twice this week to end the regular season.

For East Carolina and Cincinnati, there is a lot at stake in their two-game set that begins today at Cincinnati and concludes Friday at 1 p.m. in Greenville. ECU (20-11) is having a historic season — having already collected 20 wins in a campaign for the first time since 2005 — and it is eyeing a fourth-place finish in the American, but the Bearcats (13-17) also want to finish fourth.

Both teams are tied for fourth place with 11-7 league records. This situation is something Pirate coach Julie Torbett said she has never experienced in her head coaching career, which began in 1994 at UNC Asheville.

“I’m thinking it could be a little bit in our benefit that we play them first on the road, and then we can make some adjustments and we have them on our home court,” Torbett said during a phone interview Tuesday.

She added that tiebreakers involve sets won and possibly other factors. ECU could finish anywhere from third to sixth in the league, and UCF is a team to watch with a 10-6 AAC record.

The American does not have a conference tournament, so the Pirates’ season will end Friday in Minges Coliseum.

“Cincinnati is a very similar team to us, so I don’t think it’s surprising when you look back at our records and we ended up tied at this point,” Torbett said. “Playing somebody back to back in volleyball is also not typical and it’s not like baseball or softball where you play a series, or if you are in a tournament you are playing somebody different even if you play a couple of matches in the same day.”

The Pirates come into today’s pivotal contest off consecutive five-set matches. They won at Houston on Friday and then fell at Tulane on Sunday despite winning the first two games of that match.

Cincy beat Tulane and Houston last week.

“We’re playing injured, but a lot of teams are at this point with just the wear and tear,” Torbett said. “We’re playing through because they only have a couple more matches and they might as well give it everything they have. … We have to get that mindset that volleyball is not over at Thanksgiving and we are going to continue to play on.”

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

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