CINCINNATI, Ohio — The University of Cincinnati volleyball team used a solid team effort both offensively and defensively to stay in the thick of the Conference USA race with a three-game sweep of East Carolina on Friday night. The Bearcats (12-6, 3-1 C-USA) picked up the victory on the strength of a 30-20, 30-14, 30-18 performance, in a match played before a full house at UC’s Laurence Gym. The Pirates fall to 4-16, 0-5 C-USA with the defeat.
The Bearcats hit .412 as a team, placing three players in double figures in kills. Senior Bonita Wise led the charge, hitting .611 with 12 kills. Sophomore Julie DuPont also carded 12 kills, while senior Trish Ladusaw chipped in with 11, while adding a team-best nine digs. Junior Laura Lauder produced a solid all around effort from her setter position, registering 40 assists, with three kills, six digs and four blocks.
Cincinnati jumped out of the blocks early, hitting a blistering .475 to the Pirates’ .185 first game clip. East Carolina hung in early, with their largest deficit four, at 11-7. Following an ECU timeout, kills by Shannon Paton and Sarah Vick, sandwiched around a UC error brought the visitors to within one at 11-10.
But the Bearcat offense exploded from there, scoring 10 of the matches’ next 11 points to take a commanding 10-point advantage. Lauder came up huge during the stretch, scoring three straight kills and adding a block. Sophomore Rachel Torblaa was also strong during the run with a pair of kills and a block.
East Carolina recovered and scored six of the next seven, with two Vick aces highlighting the spree. With the Pirate deficit at just six, Ladusaw took over for Cincinnati, registering four kills in the Bearcats’ last seven points to secure the game.
Game two started much the same as the first with East Carolina leading on three separate occasions early on, the last being at 4-3. Two blocks and a kill by Torblaa highlighted five straight UC points to push the advantage to 8-4.
The two teams traded points, with each going on small runs until the scoreboard showed a 20-12 Cincinnati advantage. UC went on to score 10 of the game’s final 12 points to a take a two-game advantage into the break. Wise was the leader of the final stretch of game two as she scored two kills and two blocks to spur the Cincinnati attack.
East Carolina again took an early lead in game three, jumping ahead 2-1, before the hosts rattled off 11 of the next 13 points to take a comfortable 12-4 lead. Sophomore Leslie Newell sparked this run, totalling a pair of kills and a block.
The Pirates managed to get the deficit back to four at 12-8, but Cincinnati responded again winning eight of nine points to build an 11-point advantage. After the Bearcats had built a 27-14 cushion, East Carolina scored four of the final seven points, but a Jessica Vick service error at 29-18, sealed the UC victory.
“I think we are starting to get in a groove,” said Bearcat head coach Reed Sunahara. “Our hitting percentage was improved tremendously over the past four games and if we continue to do that, I think we will be alright.”
Sarah Vick paced the visitors with 10 kills and five digs, while Denise Hartnett and Johanna Bertini each added seven digs.
The Bearcats continue with C-USA action on Sunday, hosting Charlotte at 2 p.m. in Laurence Gym.