No. 4 Panthers sweep UVA in ACC opener

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No. 4 Panthers sweep UVA in ACC opener

Senior Layne Buskirk (right) recorded three kills in the first set, contributing to a team hitting percentage of .520 against UVA.

Senior Layne Buskirk (right) recorded three kills in the first set, contributing to a team hitting percentage of .520 against UVA.

Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior Layne Buskirk (right) recorded three kills in the first set, contributing to a team hitting percentage of .520 against UVA.

Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior Layne Buskirk (right) recorded three kills in the first set, contributing to a team hitting percentage of .520 against UVA.

By Alex Lehmbeck, Staff Writer

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The Pitt women’s volleyball team received its 2018 ACC Championship rings ahead of last Sunday’s Penn State game, commemorating the team’s second straight year atop the conference. The Panthers’ quest for a three-peat got off to a dominant start on Wednesday, with a 3-0 victory at Virginia to open ACC play.

Everything was clicking for the No. 4 Panthers in the first set, especially on the attack. Redshirt senior Stephanie Williams played her best set of the season, racking up seven kills on a .600 hitting percentage. Senior Layne Buskirk added three kills on three attempts, contributing to a team hitting percentage of .520. Pitt (12-1) served five aces in the first set alone — three more than it had in the entire five-set match against Penn State on Sunday. Virginia (8-6) didn’t get its first ace until late in the second set.

Pitt showed no signs of letting up in the second set. An ace from junior Kayla Lund helped give the Panthers a 4-0 lead. After the Cavaliers slowly started closing the lead, the Panthers went on an eight-point run, including four kills from Lund, to go up 19-9.

With the Panthers four points away from winning the second set, senior Alix Dreier made her way into the match for the first time this season. She had an immediate impact, putting away an assist from first-year setter Lexis Akeo to clinch the set for Pitt, 25-17.

Virginia showed some life after the intermission, but it wasn’t enough to extend the match. The Cavaliers finally found a response to Pitt’s strong serve, as they avoided giving up an ace in the third game, but four sloppy Virginia service errors hindered any chance of a comeback. Down 24-21, a Cavalier attacking error on match point gave the Panthers the 3-0 sweep.

Williams, a three time All-ACC First Team member, recorded 11 kills and tied a career-high with four serving aces on Wednesday.

Playing their first match after receiving the best national ranking in program history, the Panthers’ .409 hitting percentage was their second-best of the season so far. Despite not recording an ace in the third set, Pitt’s 10 aces in the match were also the team’s most this year. Wednesday night’s victory confirmed that Pitt is the team to beat in the ACC this season.

Pitt’s next test in conference play comes against Virginia Tech this Sunday. The match will be held at Fitzgerald Field House starting at 4 p.m.

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