Volleyball sweeps 3-0 win against Virginia - The Pitt News

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Volleyball sweeps 3-0 win against Virginia

Mariah Bell (10) led the Panthers with 12 kills against Virginia on Sunday at the Fitzgerald Field House. Anna Bongardino | Staff Photographer

Mariah Bell (10) led the Panthers with 12 kills against Virginia on Sunday at the Fitzgerald Field House. Anna Bongardino | Staff Photographer

Mariah Bell (10) led the Panthers with 12 kills against Virginia on Sunday at the Fitzgerald Field House. Anna Bongardino | Staff Photographer

By Mackenzie Rodrigues | For The Pitt News

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After conquering Virginia Tech for its third-straight ACC win of the season, the Pitt women’s volleyball team was looking for a victory against the University of Virginia Cavaliers.

Sunday afternoon was the first time the teams faced off since Pitt swept the university 3-0 last year.

“I was confident going into the game after getting our mojo back after Virginia Tech,” freshman outside hitter Stephanie Williams said after the game. “But I knew we had to play really strong.”

Pitt (13-3, 4-0 ACC) won all three sets but had to fight for those points. Even though the first two sets slightly challenged the Panthers, the third proved their ability to overcome errors and setbacks.

The Cavaliers (3-13, 0-4 ACC) served and scored first, but the Panthers put points on the board when Virginia misplayed the ball and sent it soaring out of bounds. Virginia quickly reclaimed control and secured a two-point lead.

When Pitt senior outside hitter Maria Genitsaridi subbed into the game to serve, Pitt’s momentum shifted. The Panthers worked cohesively to block the Cavaliers attempts to regain the lead. With five solid serves from Genitsaridi, Pitt took the lead, leaving the score 7-3.

The Panthers’ energy — fueled by the band playing a little louder and the crowd cheering a little harder with each point — fed the Panthers’ hunger to claim their first set win.

Pitt maintained the lead for the rest of the first set, ending with a score of 25-20. Junior outside hitter Mariah Bell, freshman middle blocker Layne Van Buskirk and Williams led the Panthers with four kills each.

Pitt started the second set with a 3-0 lead after Pitt sophomore setter Kamalani Akeo took the first serve, and Bell triumphed with a kill for the first point.

Virginia took back possession and put up points with a hit Pitt couldn’t block. The Cavaliers gained a point to tie the game at 3-3 after a double hit error by Pitt. This was followed by a another successful hit for Virginia to move up to four points. The Panthers remained positive on the court, not letting the one-point deficit get them down.

After fighting back to tie and then create a lead, the Panthers remained dominant for the rest of the set. Bell secured the game point with her ninth kill of the night for the final score of 25-17.

The Panthers knew they only needed one more set to take the match, but Virginia was not willing to give up so easily.

Neither Pitt nor Virginia were able to take a commanding lead in the first part of the third set. The score teetered in favor of both teams, but Virginia predominantly kept a one- or two-point advantage in the first half.

“It’s nerve-racking when the score goes back and forth,” Bell said. “But I felt pretty calm.”

A mid-set kill by junior middle blocker Kelsey O’Neill propelled Pitt one point ahead of Virginia, setting the score at 14-13. The Panthers used the opportunity to create a staggering upper hand that the Cavaliers found difficult to keep up with.

When the score reached 24-16, Buskirk landed one last kill to end the set 25-17 and achieve a 3-0 shutout win.

“We have to pick up some wins,” head coach Dan Fisher said. “We have to be ready.”

The Panthers will play their next ACC game against the Duke Blue Devils Oct. 7, in Durham, North Carolina, at 6:30 p.m.

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Volleyball sweeps 3-0 win against Virginia