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Christmas trees in Schenley Plaza.
‘Christmas Day at Pitt’ gathers community for free meals, clothes and gifts
By Spencer Levering, Senior Staff Writer • December 8, 2023

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Christmas trees in Schenley Plaza.
‘Christmas Day at Pitt’ gathers community for free meals, clothes and gifts
By Spencer Levering, Senior Staff Writer • December 8, 2023

No. 7 Pitt comes back, defeats No. 11 Georgia Tech

Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Junior Emmy Klika (12) screams in celebration after winning a point during Friday’s match against Georgia Tech at the Fitzgerald Field House.

No. 7 Pitt (14-2, ACC 5-0) and No. 11 Georgia Tech (13-2, ACC 4-1) had all eyes focused on them before their pivotal ACC match. And the teams did not disappoint in this five-set barnburner, with the Panthers ultimately defeating the Yellow Jackets 3-2.

Pitt head coach Dan Fisher thought this win against a top-15 opponent couldn’t have come at a better time for the Panthers, as they’re entering their toughest stretch of the season.

“I’m glad we found a way to win,” Fisher said. “We are coming up on a really tough next two weeks, so I think this type of game will be good for us going forward.”

The Panthers and Yellow Jackets didn’t start the game with their best passing as both teams’ jump servers had runs of their own. But ultimately the Panthers first-year right-side hitter Olivia Babcock impacted the game and helped Pitt get out to a 9-5 lead.

The Yellow Jackets’ early serve receive struggles continued against first-year outside hitter Torrey Stafford, causing the Yellow Jackets to call a timeout with the Panthers leading 12-6.

Off the early Georgia Tech timeout, the Yellow Jackets responded with a flurry of kills from all over the front row, bringing the game within one score.

A back-and-forth ensued for a while, with the Panthers maintaining their lead and bringing the score to 20-19.

In the final moments of the first set, the Panthers took control once again, causing the Yellow Jackets to use their second and final timeout of the first set with a score of 22-19. 

But the Yellow Jackets quickly responded. Junior outside hitter Bianca Bertolino scored the final five points of the match, giving Georgia Tech the set one victory with a score of 25-23. 

In the beginning of the second set the teams once more went on runs with their jump servers which ultimately gave the Panthers a 9-8 advantage, causing a Georgia Tech timeout.

Once again the Yellow Jackets responded, taking advantage of multiple Panthers attacking errors and jumping out to a 13-10 lead. 

But this lead didn’t last long, as Babcock and junior setter Rachel Fairbanks dominated the next five points giving the Panthers a 15-13 lead.

The Panthers’ lead led to a media timeout. Another back-and-forth ensued from the two top 15 teams similar to the first set, which led to a score of 23-23. 

Luckily for the Yellow Jackets, Bertolino repeated her performance from the first set. She got the Panthers out of system on her first serve leading to a Georgia Tech score. Then finished the set with a service ace giving the Yellow Jackets a 25-23 victory and a 2-0 set lead.

In the third set, with the Panthers needing to have a reverse sweep to take sole possession of first place in the ACC, the Panthers changed their lineup to a 6-2. 

The Panthers ran this lineup with graduate student setter Lexis Akeo as the second setter and added graduate student defensive specialist Logan Mosley in for redshirt senior outside hitter Valeria Vazquez-Gomez’s back row rotation.

Fisher put these two in to change the course of the game for the Panthers. And Mosley had faith she could help the Panthers out down the stretch.

“Knowing we lost the first two sets I knew we needed a spark out there,” Mosley said. “And knowing I was going to play, like alright I’m going to be that spark for the team.”

This spark that Mosley brought for the Panthers worked as they got out to a 11-7 lead after a monstrous block by Babcock causing a Georgia Tech timeout.

Off the Georgia Tech timeout, Stafford joined with a huge block of her own. And the Panther domination continued, causing Georgia Tech head coach Michelle Collier to call her second and final timeout with the Panthers leading 17-8.

Off of the timeout, Georgia Tech put a scare in the Panthers hopes of extending the game, as they went on a 7-2 run. But the Panthers took control of the game and ultimately won the set 25-17, diminishing the Yellow Jackets set lead to 2-1.

In the fourth set of the match, the Panthers came out blistering hot behind the Fairbanks serve, getting out to an early 6-0 lead causing an early timeout from Georgia Tech.

Off of the early timeout, the Yellow Jackets scored their first point of the set, but nothing could stop the Panthers early in the set. Babcock once more dominated from the service line and caused Georgia Tech to burn both of their timeouts early in the set with the Panthers leading 11-3.

With Babcock still at the service line and the Yellow Jackets out of timeouts, Georgia Tech had grace fall on their side, with Babcock committing a service error, which led to Bertolino being at the service line. But the same grace happened for the Panthers as she also committed a service error. 

After the back-to-back service errors the Yellow Jackets went on a 6-1 run putting a scare in the Panthers chances to extend this match to five sets. But the Panthers had Fairbanks to rely on, with her getting a huge kill that stopped the Yellow Jackets rally.

This kill brought Fairbanks to the service line and the Panthers dominated the Yellow Jackets. Fairbanks went on a 5-0 run bringing the Panthers lead to 21-11. And in the final moments of the fourth set the Panthers finished the job, winning the set 25-15. 

In the final set to decide the winner of this top 15 matchup, the Yellow Jackets started with Bertolino at the service line and scored the first two points of the set. The Panthers quickly responded with two points of their own thanks to a huge kill by graduate student middle blocker Emma Monks. 

With Monks’ huge kill and ending the game with a 0.562 hitting percentage, she’s glad she made a difference and credits her teammates on why she made this difference.

“It feels good to just help the team win,” Monks said. “The passing was on point, setting was on point, so it really was a group effort.”

Tons of back and forth ensued for the Panthers and Yellow Jackets until the Panthers took their first lead of set five 6-5.  The Panthers extended their lead to 11-8 with Mosley at the service line. Where Mosley knew she could make a difference. 

“Alright, time to get the job done,” Mosley said. “Went back there, confident serve and I got us points.”

The first Mosley serve led to a game changing block by Babcock and Monks, causing Georgia Tech to call their first timeout of the set. After this timeout, the Panthers dominated the rest of the set. They finished the set off with a 15-8 victory, giving the Panthers solo possession of first place in the ACC. 

After the game, Fisher was pleased with his team’s resiliency to take this match away from the Yellow Jackets.  

“It definitely shows our heart,” Fisher said. “Because we haven’t had one of those this year that we have pulled out. I’m really glad we found a way to win.”

The Panthers return to action in the Fitzgerald Field House on Sunday at 1 P.M. to face Clemson (11-6, ACC 2-3)

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