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Quartet of sweeps on the court

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East Carolina's Toya Osuegbu (99) celebrates after scoring during their match against Eastern Washington on Sept. 6, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Eastern Washington traveled from the West Coast to Greenville to face East Carolina in volleyball for the first time, and the Eagles were faced with the same fate as the Pirates’ previous three opponents.

ECU recorded its fourth straight sweep on Thursday night during the team’s first home match of the season in Minges Coliseum, beating Eastern Washington 25-18, 28-26, 25-21. Each team came in with a 5-2 record and it was a Day 1 win for ECU ahead of playing Charlotte and Gardner-Webb during the second and most busy day of the Pirate Invitational.

Pirate coach Julie Torbett attributed at least part of the team’s four-match dominance to their five-set loss to Hampton in Cookeville, Tenn., on Aug. 31, which has been followed by sweeps of USC Upstate, Tennessee Tech, N.C. Central and Eastern Washington.

“Now I guess we have not even been daring to drop a set, so I would like to keep it that way,” Torbett said. “We have been successful and like to go on the road, but being able to hold your home court and defend home court is really important and we want to continue to get fans out and support us.

“We are home for football weekends and that is something new for us, to see if we can pull some fans in that direction from the community.”

Sophomore setter Shelby Martin provided a solid all-around performance of 45 assists, six digs and three kills. Toya Osuegbu had 12 kills.

It was the second set that made the difference in the match. Serving by Osuegbu and Samantha Dunn, a D.H. Conley High School product, helped ECU gain a 22-14 lead that was eventually evened by the visitors, who even took a brief 25-24 edge.

The score was tied, 26-26, when Brianna Hudson dropped in an ace for the Pirates. EW was then was called for a foul, giving ECU a 28-26 win and commanding 2-0 lead in the match.

“That was huge because if you keep the door open for a team that can walk right in and you would be looking at a different scenario maybe right now,” Torbett said. “I thought we really controlled the whole match up until a few strings of points.”

Martin’s passing was key during Game 1. On the receiving end at the net during clutch moments were freshmen S’mara Riley and Natalie Tyson.

Tyson finished the match with 11 kills and tied with Maggie Hallow — a former J.H. Rose standout — with a match-high eight digs. A Riley kill made it 24-17 Pirates, and Riley also had the final point of the set with a kill on an assist from Martin.

Freshmen and sophomores have played big roles for the Pirates and that will likely continue as potential leaders Brandee Markwith and Kalee Vanderhorst are out with season-ending injuries.

“They have been amazing and have carried this team so much,” Martin said of Tyson and Riley, who is from Encino, Calif. “Coming in and starting as a freshman is a big deal and there is a lot of pressure. It is very easy for it to get in their head, but they are not doing that at all and they are carrying the team and doing great.”

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

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