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Pitt volleyball goes undefeated at UCSB Thunderdome Classic - The Pitt News

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Pitt volleyball goes undefeated at UCSB Thunderdome Classic

Stephanie+Williams+led+the+Pitt+volleyball+team+to+a+3-0+record+at+the+2016+UCSB+Thunderdome+Classic.+Jeff+Ahearn+%7C+Senior+Staff+Photographer
Stephanie Williams led the Pitt volleyball team to a 3-0 record at the 2016 UCSB Thunderdome Classic. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

Stephanie Williams led the Pitt volleyball team to a 3-0 record at the 2016 UCSB Thunderdome Classic. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

Stephanie Williams led the Pitt volleyball team to a 3-0 record at the 2016 UCSB Thunderdome Classic. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

By David Leftwich / Staff Writer

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It was home sweet home for Pitt volleyball head coach Dan Fisher last weekend at the UCSB Thunderdome Classic in Santa Barbara, California.

Playing in Fisher’s hometown, the Panthers (5-1) proved they can not only finish matches but come from behind to win. Pitt went undefeated in three matches over the weekend against No. 25 Colorado State, California State University, Bakersfield and the host school, University of California, Santa Barbara.

And after the successful weekend, the Panthers are beginning to receive more national attention.

Pitt received six votes in Monday’s AVCA Division I coaches’ poll, tying with UCLA for the No. 40 spot in the country. The Panthers matched their 5-1 start from a season ago when they finished the year 23-9 and just missed out on a berth in the NCAA tournament.

In the first match of the Thunderdome Classic, Pitt squared off against Colorado State, the No. 25 team in the country.

The Panthers appeared flustered to start the match against their nationally ranked opponent and got blown out in the first set 25-12. Pitt couldn’t stop the Rams’ offense, which was successful on 16 out of 18 kill attempts, while the Panthers converted only six out of 23.

Pitt found its offense in the next two sets with 16 and 15 kills apiece.

The Panthers won the second set by a score of 25-18 and the third by a score of 25-22 to take a 2-1 lead in the match. Colorado State rebounded, taking the fourth set by a score of 25-22 to push the match to a decisive fifth set.

In the fifth and final set, the first team to 15 points would be the winner.

Colorado State jumped out to an early 4-1 lead. After a timeout by Fisher, Pitt worked its way back into the set only to lose two straight points, falling into an 11-8 deficit.

Not happy with what he saw taking place on the court, Fisher called another timeout.

After the break, the Panthers won seven straight points to win the final set 15-11 and the match 3-2. The comeback clinched a resumé-building win early in the season as well as the 1000th win in program history.

“We were really pleased with the heart we showed today,” Fisher said in a press release. “It was nice to get the win against a really good team. It was a special moment for our group.”

The second match was sloppy all around, but Pitt managed to pull out a 3-0 sweep against CSU Bakersfield.

The Panthers took the first two sets by scores of 25-20 and 25-21 then used that momentum to blow out the Roadrunners 25-15 in the third set without ever relinquishing the lead.

“For a younger team, it’s a big challenge to come back after the win we had in the morning and to refocus,” Fisher said in the release. “They are an emotional team and pushed us to the limit. It was a nice win.”

After a modest offensive output in the first two matches of the tournament, Pitt made some progress in its last match of the tournament against UCSB.

UCSB had its strongest set of the match in the first and offensively dominated the Panthers to take the set 25-19.

Pitt managed to stifle the Gauchos’ offense in the second set and produce enough offense to take the set by a score of 25-20. From this point on, the Panthers found their groove offensively.

They battled with UCSB in a closely contested third set and managed to pull out a 26-24 win, then continued their offensive output in the fourth set. Pitt jumped out to a 17-11 lead won the set by a score of 25-15 to take the match, 3-1.

Panthers outside hitter Stephanie Williams left her mark on this match with a team-leading 20 kills.

“It was a really good day, and it was a total team effort,” Williams said in the release. “Once Angela [Seman], Mariah [Bell] and I settled in and thought about good passes, we were able to run our offense and get a lot of good touches.”

The Panthers will be back at home next weekend as they host the Panther Invitational at the Fitzgerald Field House. Their first home match of the season will take place against Coastal Carolina on Friday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m.

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Pitt volleyball goes undefeated at UCSB Thunderdome Classic