Panther teams faced off against a stacked lineup of nationally ranked teams in volleyball, soccer and cross country over the weekend. Women’s volleyball continued its undefeated streak in the Panther Invitational, while men’s soccer and both cross country teams displayed strong efforts despite some unfavorable finishes.
Looking to follow up on strong showings at the Duquesne Duals last weekend, both Pitt men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to Penn State to race in the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational. The women’s competition featured nine other schools from across the eastern United States, while the men raced against eight other schools.
Pitt finished seventh in the women’s 6k race, with assistant coach Brad Herbster saying a conservative early approach hindered the Panthers’ ability to move the top five runners up as much as they would have liked. Pitt’s top finishers out of 127 runners included first-year Devon Hoernlein, who took 28th with a time of 22:16, senior Natalie Hilton who finished 35th at 22:27 and Mikaela Vlasic at 47th with a time of 23:04.
Following the women’s competition, Pitt’s men finished sixth out of nine teams in the 5.2-mile race. Sophomore Zach Lefever was the top finisher for the male Panthers, grabbing 12th place overall with a time of 26:25. Lefever was followed by first-year Evan Addison, who made his Panther debut with a finish time of 26:35, landing him in 19th place.
The Panthers will use the next two weeks for recovery and training before heading to Boston for the Coast-to-Coast Battle on Sept. 21, giving them a preview of the future ACC Championship course for Oct. 26.
On the heels of a one-goal loss to No. 4 Akron one week prior, Pitt men’s soccer took on No. 5 UNC in Durham, North Carolina.
Pitt drew first blood in the 13th minute on a goal by sophomore forward Edward Kizza, who was assisted by sophomore midfielder Marcony Pimentel. The rest of the half was a defensive struggle, with UNC producing the only two shots.
A more up-tempo second half featured 11 shots between the two teams combined and in the 73rd minute, UNC junior Mauricio Pineda scored off an assist from sophomore John Nelson.
The first overtime was again a defensive stalemate with the Panthers getting off the period’s only shot, but only four minutes into the second overtime, first-year midfielder Milo Garvanian scored on a header off a cross from senior Nils Bruening to give UNC the victory.
Kizza led the Panthers with one goal on three shots. Seniors Javi Perez and Robby Dambrot, along with first-year Alec Townsend, recorded one shot apiece. First-year goalie Johan Penaranda recorded three saves in goal for the Panthers.
The Panthers will return to the field on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against VCU in Richmond, Virginia.
The Pitt women’s volleyball team won all three of its games at the Fitzgerald Field House this weekend, highlighted by a sweep of No. 12 Washington Saturday afternoon. With those three wins, the No. 13 Panthers remained perfect at 9-0.
Pitt played its most hotly contested match of the weekend on Friday morning as they outlasted Kennesaw State in five sets, 3-2.
The Panthers dropped the first set 25-23, but bounced back in the second by scoring the final five points to win 26-24. Pitt split the next two sets but won the tiebreaking fifth more comfortably, by a score of 15-7.
Sophomore Kayla Lund led the Panthers with 14 kills to go along with two blocks, 11 digs and four assists. Senior Kamalani Akeo tallied 26 assists and senior Angela Seman recorded 17 digs, both leading the Panthers in those categories.
Turning to the night half of the doubleheader, Pitt faced off against the Dayton Flyers. The Panthers started slow, losing the first set 25-20. The second set was the highlight of the match, a back-and-forth affair that featured multiple long rallies that went into extra points. Pitt went on to win the next three sets 28-26, 25-14 and a dominant 25-7.
Finally, in the marquee matchup of the weekend, the Panthers took on the Washington Huskies. Pitt won in a dominating fashion, sweeping the Huskies 25-18, 25-13 and 25-17 to win the Panther Invitational.
Lund and junior Stephanie Williams combined for 31 kills, hitting .727 and .480 respectively. Junior Layne Van Buskirk led the team in blocks with five, while Akeo combined with sophomore Kylee Levers for 37 assists.
The win gave Pitt a perfect 9-0 record, their best start since 1983. So far, the Panthers have lived up to the preseason expectations that pegged them to repeat as ACC champions.
Pitt will resume play next weekend when they head to South Carolina for the Coastal Carolina Classic.