Pitt Volleyball sweeps weekend doubleheader

Pitt+right+side+hitter+Chinaza+Ndee+%285%29+prepares+to+hit+the+ball+over+the+net+at+a+game+against+University+of+Virginia+at+the+Fitzgerald+Field+House+on+Sept.+29.+

Hannah Wilson | Staff Photographer

Pitt right side hitter Chinaza Ndee (5) prepares to hit the ball over the net at a game against University of Virginia at the Fitzgerald Field House on Sept. 29.

By Richie Smiechowski, Staff Writer

No. 3 Pitt volleyball continued its recent string of dominance against ACC foes, sweeping both Syracuse and Boston College over the weekend. Since their second loss of the season to Louisville on Oct. 24, the Panthers have yet to drop a set in four matches. They are currently second in the ACC standings — two games behind the Cardinals.

The Panthers (22-2, 12-2 ACC) took the court Friday night and dominated Syracuse (15-10, 4-9 ACC) at Fitzgerald Field House for their first win of the weekend. The first set was the closest of the night. The Orange started off strong, forcing 17 ties and seven lead changes while managing just shy of a .300 hit percentage against the stout Pitt defense.

With the two teams tied 22-22, the Panthers got a boost from senior middle blocker Serena Gray, who notched back-to-back aces and put Pitt up two at set point. The Orange responded with a point of their own, but a final kill from graduate student outside hitter Kayla Lund finished off the first set for the Panthers, who took the frame 25-23.

After a tight first set, the Panthers left no doubt in the second game. They started off on a five-point run before tearing through the rest of the set, even finding themselves up 21-6 late in the frame. A late push from the Orange brought the game to 24-15, but the deficit proved too insurmountable to overcome. One final kill from sophomore outside hitter Valeria Vazquez Gomez put the finishing touches on a masterful 25-15 second set victory from the Panthers.

The Panthers found themselves down 3-1 early in the third frame, but they followed the deficit with a seven-point swing to go up 8-3. The Panthers managed to hold their big advantage for the remainder of the set, ending with three kills from sophomore middle blocker Anastasia Russ. The 25-13 third set victory concluded the Panther’s statement victory.

While no names jumped out of the scorebook, the Panthers produced a remarkably balanced performance, with four players tallying more than nine kills. They managed a .345 hitting percentage as a team while holding Syracuse to a measly .121 percentage.

Although the Panthers’ game against Syracuse started off tight, it was a different story against Boston College (14-14, 4-10 ACC) on Sunday afternoon. Pitt jumped out to an early 8-3 lead early in the first frame and never looked back. Down 22-10, the Eagles went on a late run, but it wasn’t enough, as the Panthers took the last three points of the set to win 25-15.

The Panthers’ defense shined in the first set, as they held the Eagles to just nine kills on .062 hitting. Poor hitting combined with seven attack errors led to Boston College’s first set demise.

The Eagles came into the second set with a vengeance, taking the first four points off the Panthers and forcing their opposition to call an early timeout. Just a few points later, the Panthers clawed their way back, going on a four-point run to force a 9-9 tie. The two sides remained deadlocked until 17-17. But from there, the Panthers took control of the game — going on a 5-1 run to ultimately seal a comfortable 25-19 victory.

This time, offense was the key for the Panthers, who tallied a remarkable 18 kills on .517 hitting in the second set. Senior right side hitter Chinaza Ndee led the way for Pitt with five kills in the frame.

Boston College appeared determined to take at least one set off of the Panthers for the weekend. Both sides went on runs in the third set, but neither found an advantage. Down 22-21, the Panthers found their stride and took four of the last five points to win 25-23 and complete the weekend sweep.

Ndee provided the attacking spark for the Panthers against Boston College, tallying 13 kills on .417 hitting. Junior middle blocker Chiamaka Nwokolo had an outstanding defensive performance, notching four blocks in a dominant showing at the net.

The Panthers only have five games remaining in the regular season. They’ll travel to the nation’s capital to take on American University at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. It is Pitt’s last non-conference game of the regular season before its final four-game stretch of ACC opponents. The game will be streamed on ESPN+. 

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