HEAD COACH JULIE TORBETT
Julie Torbett, who played an integral role in the success of a nationally-prominent Penn State team as a student-athlete and has followed with over 400 victories in 24 years as a head coach, begins her sixth season as head volleyball coach at East Carolina University in 2018.
In just five years, Torbett has transferred a once dormant ECU program into a contender in the American Athletic Conference.
The Pirates enjoyed one of their finest seasons in school history in 2017, racking up a 22-11 overall record and 13-7 AAC mark – good for fourth place in the league standings. ECU was picked to finish 11th in the preseason coaches poll. The 22 victories were the most for the Pirates since 1982 and the 20-win season was the first for the program since 2005.
Setter Shelby Martin was tabbed the AAC Freshman of the Year and to the Second Team, marking the first ECU player to earn such an honor in program history. Senior middle blocker Natalie Montini also collected the first all-conference first-team laurel for the Pirates since 2007 while classmate and outside hitter Ashton Mares became the fifth player in school history to record over 1,000 career kills and digs.
Torbett enjoyed some personal accolades as well in 2017, becoming the all-time winningest head volleyball coach at ECU when the Pirates defeated AAC opponent USF 3-1 on Nov. 3 in Greenville. She also earned her 400th career win with a 3-0 sweep of N.C. Central Sept. 19 at home. Torbett currently owns the second-most career victories of any active head coach in the American Conference.
The 2016 season saw the program take a large and important step in the turnaround process as ECU posted a 15-15 record - its first non-losing season since 2006. The Pirates started the season 10-0, putting together the longest winning streak in school history, and won every non-conference match for the first time in program history. East Carolina also won 12 matches away from Greenville, including seven true road victories as well as the first road weekend sweep of two AAC opponents (Tulane and Houston).
Torbett mentored Ashley McRae through a memorable senior season that ended up with the middle hitter finishing her career with the best hitting percentage (.326) of any Pirate to ever don the Purple and Gold. McRae also broke the single-season mark for hitting percentage with a .369 mark as well as ending up with 315 total blocks - good for seventh on the ECU top 10 career list.
Academics and community service continued to be a staple of Torbett’s tenure as the team produced a collective 3.25 grade point average in the spring and spent time volunteering at a plethora of events and places including Aces for Autism, the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital, the Cypress Glen Retirement Center and the Pitt County Boy’s and Girl’s Club.
In 2015, Torbett continued to put the program on solid footing. The Pirates won six of their first eight contests and captured the East Carolina Invitational for the second-straight campaign with three-set victories over Hampton and William and Mary. Torbett also helped mentor four different players who earned spots on the American Athletic Conference Weekly Honor Roll.
In terms of individual development, senior libero Erika Figueroa set the program single-season record for digs with 618 while producing a new single-match mark of 37 digs in a five-set win over UConn Nov. 25. She also left ECU in sole possession of third place on the career chart with 1,391. Figueroa was also named the AAC Defensive Player of the Week Sept. 28 as well as the East Carolina Student-Athlete of the Month for September.
The 2014 season marked East Carolina's inaugural year in the American Athletic Conference and Torbett guided the Pirates to a 15-16 overall record including a 6-14 ledger in league action. Under her tutelage, ECU volleyball collected 15 wins in a single season and six conference victories for the first time since 2007.
Torbett's squad was competitive throughout the season as they opened the year sweeping three matches in the East Carolina Invitational en route to becoming co-champions of the tournament along with UNCW. During the 2014 campaign the Pirates reached several milestones as a team and individually. A defensively strong team, ECU tallied 98 digs in the match against Memphis on October 26, which comes in third in the single-game record book.
A former defensive specialist at Penn State, Torbett used her knowledge and experience to set the tone for the Pirate defense. She coached junior defensive specialist Erika Figueroa into the starting libero position and, on November 16, Figueroa tied the then school record with 34 digs at UConn. With Torbett's help, Figueroa finished the season with three 30-plus dig efforts while averaging 3.74 digs per set to lead ECU and rank ninth in the American Athletic Conference.
Torbett put together a respectable first season with the program, leading ECU to 13 victories for the first time in five years - more than six times the win total from the previous season. She piloted her squad to three Conference USA victories for the first time since 2008 and paced the Pirates to their first five-match winning streak in five years. Under her tutelage, East Carolina captured its first road tournament title since 2005 after three consecutive 3-0 victories at the Elon Phoenix Classic.
Torbett's Pirates garnered a Conference USA Player of the Week in Shelby Beasley for the first time in five years and Nicole Willis was named to the All-Conference USA Second Team, marking the first all-conference ECU volleyball honoree since 2007.
Torbett came to ECU after a two-year stint at Winthrop where she guided the Eagles to a 20-8 Big South Conference record and a 34-24 overall mark. In her first year, Torbett's team tied for the Big South regular season championship, the first for Winthrop since 2007, and earned a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. In her two years with the Eagles, Torbett's squads made an appearance in the Big South Conference Tournament and she coached six all-conference selections - including 2011 Big South Player-of-the-Year Becca Toor.
Prior to her time in Rock Hill, Torbett was in charge of the UNC Asheville women's volleyball program and she led the Bulldogs to 304 wins in 17 seasons from 1994-2011. Torbett guided UNCA to a pair of Big South regular season championships, a No. 10 ranking in the South Region, and was named Big South Conference Coach-of-the-Year on two occasions (2002 and 2009). In addition, she served as the department's senior woman administrator for 13 years.
In more than 20 years as a head coach at the Division I level, Torbett accumulated 338 career wins to become the winningest coach in Big South volleyball history. Additionally, she has coached and mentored numerous NCAA All-America selections, NCAA statistical leaders, and more than 40 all-conference honorees.
The former Penn State middle back and defensive specialist under legendary head coach Russ Rose helped the Nittany Lions to four Atlantic 10 championships, four NCAA Regional appearances and a perfect 31-0 conference record before earning her degree in exercise and sport science in 1990.
Torbett holds her student-athletes to a higher standard in the classroom as she has coached 18 Academic All-Big South selections and several of her teams have garnered the AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) Academic Team Award which is presented to programs with a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher.
In addition to an emphasis on academics, community service also plays a large role for Torbett as she and her teams have participated in various community outreach programs. Throughout her career, Torbett's squads actively visit local elementary schools, retirement communities, and volunteer in an abundance of fundraising events. In 2011, the Eagles volleyball team helped raise more than $800 for the American Cancer Society.
Torbett is married to Kelvin Thomas and has three sons Nathanael, Colby and Tristan as well as two stepchildren Kianna and Niko.