Panthers continue undefeated streak at Comfort Inn-vitational


TPN File Photo

No. 4 Pitt volleyball traveled to Johnson Arena in Morehead, Ky. for its final tune-up games at the Comfort Inn-vitational in preparation of their ACC opener against UNC on Friday. The undefeated Panthers dominated the event, sweeping Marshall and Morehead State and improving their spotless record to 10-0 on the season.

By Richie Smiechowski, Staff Writer

No. 4 Pitt volleyball made the trip southwest to Johnson Arena in Morehead, Ky. for its final tune-up games at the Comfort Inn-vitational in preparation of their ACC opener against UNC on Friday.

The undefeated Panthers (10-0, 0-0 ACC) dominated the event, sweeping Marshall (4-9, 0-0 C-USA) and Morehead State (4-7, 0-0 OVC) without dropping a set and improving their spotless record to 10-0 on the season.

The Panthers came out hot in their first game of the event against Marshall with a rapid 5-0 start, fueled by back-to-back kills from senior outside hitter Leketor Member-Meneh. Efficiency was key to the team’s success in the first frame. They notched a .600 hitting percentage and 17 kills on only 25 attempts.

The Panthers were successfully able to ride their strong momentum from the start and win the first set 25-10 behind a perfect five kills on five attempts by senior middle blocker Sabrina Starks.

It was the same story for the Panthers in the second set, but Marshall held its own early, limiting Pitt to a 11-9 lead early. An ace by graduate student setter Kylee Levers and three errors by the Thundering Herd in a six-point run for the Panthers proved insurmountable for Marshall later in the set, resulting in another convincing set win for the Panthers by a final score of 25-13.

The third and ultimately final set of the game provided significantly more drama than they had seen in the first two frames. The Panthers jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead, but Marshall refused to quit, always staying within striking distance of the rolling panthers. A second 5-0 run perpetuated by three attack errors in a row from the Thundering Herd didn’t help their quest of a comeback.

With Pitt only two points away from its ninth victory of the year, Marshall thundered back, winning 4 of 5 points late in the frame. Their efforts proved to be too little too late, and the Panthers completed the sweep, taking the third set 25-20.

Fifth-year right side hitter Chinaza Ndee had a standout performance in her first game after winning the ACC Player of the Week award. She tallied 11 kills for the game, while Levers also showed her strength both on defense and attack, notching 17 digs and 21 assists in the matchup. The Panther’s showed their strength on defense, holding Marshall to an absurd .021 hitting percentage.

The event’s second match, against Morehead State, started with both teams trading points on the attack. At 5-5, the Panthers began to pull away on the heels of a 4-0 run, comfortably commanding the rest of the frame. Strong four-kill sets from Ndee, Member-Meneh, and graduate student outside hitter, Kayla Lund proved to be overwhelming for the Eagles as the Panthers convincingly took game one 25-17.

The start of the second frame was emphatic for the Panthers, who went on an 8-0 run after dropping the first point. The early momentum prevented the Eagles from ever coming close to catching the Panthers, who ended the frame on back-to-back kills by senior outside hitter Jordan Lockwood. Defense was again the strong point for the Panthers in the frame, holding the Eagles to just a 0.71 hitting percentage.

Pitt didn’t give Morehead State a chance to even consider a comeback in the final set, jumping out to an 11-3 lead in the frame on the back of two service aces and two kills from Lund. The game never ended up being close as the Panthers cruised their way to the sweep, concluding the final game 25-16.

The Panther’s second win of the event ended up being even more dominant than the first, holding Morehead State to an abysmal .083 hitting percentage while hitting .354 themselves. Member-Meneh had her best outing of the year, notching a season-high 14 kills and 10 digs for the double-double.

Next Friday should prove to be a much more daunting challenge for the Panthers, who will open up their ACC slate against UNC at 6 p.m., airing on ACCNX. The Tar Heels have mustered a flawless start to their season as well, going 11-0 to begin the campaign. Pitt will look to hand them their first loss of the year while continuing their own perfect start.