Weekend Sports: West powers Panthers to perfect start

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Weekend Sports: West powers Panthers to perfect start

Pitt women’s volleyball was picked for the first time in program history to win the ACC this year.

Pitt women’s volleyball was picked for the first time in program history to win the ACC this year.

Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

Pitt women’s volleyball was picked for the first time in program history to win the ACC this year.

Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

Pitt women’s volleyball was picked for the first time in program history to win the ACC this year.

By Stephen Thompson, Assistant Sports Editor

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Women’s soccer

Pitt women’s soccer opened the 2019 campaign on a positive note Friday night, edging Loyola Marymount in a high-scoring 5-4 affair at Urbanic Field. First-year forward Amanda West powered the Panthers to victory by way of a sensational three-goal performance, making her the only first-year Panther ever to earn a hat trick in her debut.

West scored her first goal almost three minutes into the second half, tying the score at two a piece. Redshirt junior Jackie Fiacco gave the lead back to LMU in the 62nd minute, but West was quick to respond with her second equalizer.

West’s final goal came in the 82nd minute with the game knotted at four all. From there, the Panthers held firm and secured a season-opening for the third straight year.

Redshirt senior Juliana Vazquez and first-year defender Athalie Palomo rounded out the scoring for the Panthers. Sophomore forward Anna Rico also contributed to the victory with two assists.

Pitt then made the trek from Pittsburgh to Lewisburg to face the Bucknell Bison on Sunday. It was another close match, but once again Pitt’s young star came through when it mattered most.

The game was scoreless after 90 minutes, and both teams got their first taste of overtime this season. After outshooting the Bison for the entirety of the match, Pitt finally broke through in the second overtime when West scored her fourth goal of the season, assisted by Rico. That “golden goal” would give the Panthers a 1-0 win.

The Panthers currently sit undefeated through two games. Their next test comes Friday, when they travel to Hanover, New Hampshire, to face Dartmouth. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.

Volleyball

The No. 12 Panthers traveled to Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday afternoon for an exhibition match against the reigning Atlantic 10 conference champion Dayton Flyers. Pitt, picked for the first time in program history to win the ACC, rallied after finding itself in an early deficit, but ultimately lost the match 3-2.

The Flyers won the opening pair of sets by identical 25-21 scores. They used strong closing runs of 7-3 and 5-3 to clinch consecutive sets.

But the Panthers responded in the third and fourth sets, winning 25-22 and 25-23, respectively, to force a decisive fifth set.

The thrilling final frame featured eight ties and two lead changes as the teams traded points down the stretch. But with the score tied at 17, the Flyers scored back-to-back points that secured a victory.

Despite the loss, several Panthers who figure to be key parts of the 2019 campaign turned in strong performances. Redshirt senior Stephanie Williams led the visitors with 21 kills, followed by junior Kayla Lund with 10. Senior Nika Markovic also filled up the stat sheet with 10 kills, six digs and five blocks.

First-year setter Lexis Akeo, the younger sister of former Panther Kamalani Akeo, picked up right where her sister left off, manning the back side of Pitt’s lineup and tallying 42 assists for the match.

Senior Layne Van Buskirk contributed a team-high six blocks in addition to eight kills as well.

The Panthers return to action next weekend, when they will officially open the 2019 season with the Panther Challenge. Cleveland State, Cincinnati and South Carolina will travel to Fitzgerald Field House for the event.

Men’s soccer

The Panthers concluded preseason play on Friday afternoon in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where they met No. 17 James Madison and escaped with a 1-0 victory over the Dukes.

A late second-half goal from sophomore midfielder Jackson Walti off an assist from first-year midfielder Valentin Noel was the lone score for either squad.

Though the win won’t count toward Pitt’s regular season record, it’s certainly an encouraging sign considering the talent level of the opponent. James Madison finished 2018 ranked No. 10 in the country and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.

Up next the Panthers will travel to Bloomington, Indiana, to face Indiana University and Northwestern for the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic over the weekend. Their first match against the Hoosiers is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. on Friday.

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