Pitt sweeps Iona to move on to second round of NCAA Tournament

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Pitt sweeps Iona to move on to second round of NCAA Tournament

Redshirt senior Angela Seman had 11 digs during the team's win over Iona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday night.

Redshirt senior Angela Seman had 11 digs during the team's win over Iona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday night.

Sarah Cutshall | Senior Staff Photographer

Redshirt senior Angela Seman had 11 digs during the team's win over Iona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday night.

Sarah Cutshall | Senior Staff Photographer

Sarah Cutshall | Senior Staff Photographer

Redshirt senior Angela Seman had 11 digs during the team's win over Iona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday night.

By Tessa Sayers, Assistant Sports Editor

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Pitt Volleyball (30-1) and its fans chanted “P-I-T-T Let’s Go Pitt” as the Panthers walked off the court after their 3-0 sweep against Iona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Friday night at the Peterson Events Center.   

The win allows the Panthers to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the third straight season.

“It was good to get the first win off our chest because we haven’t played since last Wednesday, so I think there was a lot of anticipation,” Head Coach Dan Fisher said. “But I’m proud of the girls… and am excited to come back tomorrow.”

Despite its 3-0 sweep, Pitt’s biggest loss of the night came in the third set when sophomore outside hitter Kayla Lund was carried off the court with an injury.

Lund leads the team in kills with 387 and aces with 35. She contributed nine kills to the Panthers victory tonight.

“At the start of the year we had some injuries,” Fisher said. “So we have [Zoi Faki] and we have [Chinaza Nede] as an option on the left too, so we will see what happens in the next 24 hours.”

Lund played a large role, recording four kills and five digs, in the Panthers first set 26-24 win — its closest score of the day.

After Pitt took a quick 2-0 lead, the Gaels battled back and it was back and forth from there with neither team being able to find its momentum.

The first set was highlighted by eight lead changed, one team never leading by more than two points until Iona senior Mia Bonsignore kill gave the Gales a 20-18 lead.

Bonsignore had the second most kills for the Gales with six. Iona was led by senior Claire Archibald who had 12 kills, and one service ace.

It was once again back and forth until a Nika Markovic kill put the Panthers ahead 25-24. An attack error by the Gales ended the set and put Pitt up 1-0.

“I think we had opportunities, but we are not shy with the fact that we are the 153 RPI team in the nation, playing against the number seven,” Head Coach Patric Santiago said. “I think anytime you are coming from a conference like ours and playing against an ACC team it’s tough to really say you wasted an opportunity.”

While Pitt was struggling on offense and transitions, it relied on Iona’s 11 errors in the first set to come away with the win.

There was a noticeable difference on the Panthers sideline the second set. Iona took a quick 2-0 lead, but dancing to the band and background music, the Panthers wasted no time coming back going on a 5-0 run to take a 5-3 lead.

 

“I thought we played pretty good at the end of the first set,” Fisher said. “So I think we were already feeling better going into the second. We focus a lot with this team on defense, so that was something we thought we could do a little better and was something we were talking about.”

Adding to some of the fun of the second set, Markovic made history when she recorded her 1,000 career kill.

“Before the game I wasn’t even thinking of it,” Markovic said. “And then during the game coach mentioned it and I was like, ‘whatever.’ But now… I’m just really thrilled and grateful for being here.”

Markovic led both teams with 16 kills on the night — she also finished with six digs and two blocks.

The biggest difference between the first and second set for the Panthers was their offense. Pitt averaged 14.6 kills per set coming into the game, but only had 12 the first set. Pitt made up for it with 17 in both the second and third sets to finish with 46 total kills in the contest.  

After going back and forth for the first 12 points of the third set, it looked like it would turn out to be the same as the first. But Pitt found its rhythm faster that time around and went on a 3-0 run to take a 9-6 lead — which it would not relinquish for the rest of the set to come away with the 24-15 win.

The Panthers will face-off against Michigan Saturday night at 7 p.m. after the Wolverines swept Navy 3-0 on Friday. The second round has been historically difficult for the Panthers, they lost in the second round the past two years, both times against in state rival Penn State.

“This is an opportunity we may never get again so we want to take advantage of that,” junior Layne Van Buskirk said. “Not being at Penn State is also awesome. We’ve played Michigan before and we are going to scout them really hard and we just really want to get to our goal… which is the Sweet 16.”

Michigan was unranked coming into the tournament and is 23-9 on the season and 11-9 in the Big Ten. The Wolverines have a 9-3 on the road and 2-0 at neutral sites. The Panthers are undefeated at home and are 2-0 at neutral sites.

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