East Carolina dropped its first two home matches of the season this weekend, after falling to tough American Athletic Conference opponents South Florida and Central Florida
The Pirates (10-4; 0-4 AAC) were swept for the first time this season on Sunday against South Florida (11-5, 2-2 AAC). The loss extended ECU’s losing streak to four matches, after setting a program record with its 10-0 start to the season.
“We haven’t been swept all year, so that was disappointing,” said ECU head coach Julie Torbett. “One of our goals was not be swept by any team all season. It was an unacceptable performance all the way around.”
ECU started the match strong and only lost 25-20 in the first set. The next two sets were dominated by USF, 25-14 and 25-18, respectively.
Despite the loss, junior outside hitter Natalie Montini had a great performance with 12 kills, which led the Pirates. Also on the court, even though ECU was losing, Montini kept the spirits high with her attitude.
“What it comes down to is how much energy you can bring,” said Montini. “I just feel like if we’re negative it’s not going to end well, so I think staying positive will definitely make us play better.”
The Pirates dropped their first contest of the weekend by a closer margin, as they lost to Central Florida (13-3; 3-0 AAC) Friday.
Although she would have enjoyed the win, Torbett saw enough from the team to be excited about for the rest of the upcoming season.
“I just think we are bringing volleyball to Greenville,” said Torbett. “We have turned the program around, so we have a lot of energy and excitement. It’s very entertaining, so even if you don’t know a lot about volleyball, I think it’s a great sport to watch and that the girls are playing at a high level.”
The Pirates split the first two sets, going 25-22 and 22-25, respectively. The third set ultimately became the game changer in the matchup, as ECU was one point away from winning the set on multiple occasions, but was unable to finish it. The set ended 32-30 in the Knights favor, before UCF easily finished the Pirates off in the fourth set, 25-12.
Senior outside hitter Sydney Darden was the leader on the offensive side and also managed to play a significant role on the defensive side, ending with 12 kills to go along with 12 digs.
The Pirates have faced some of the toughest teams in the American to start conference play this season, with Darden saying the Pirates had a lot to take out of the first four conference losses.
“Mentally, we should just focus on the fact that we are playing the toughest teams and not going 0-3 (in sets),” said Darden. “Other teams in the conference are seeing how well we are doing against the top teams in the conference, so I think coming up playing a little bit lower of the teams, I think we should get a few wins and build the positivity and the momentum going forward and hopefully catch the bigger teams later on in the conference.”