Volleyball: Pitt finds first win against Tulane

By Lauren Kirschman

After winning only one set in six losses to start the season, the Pitt women’s volleyball team found a way to put a mark in the win column during the Pitt Invitational this weekend.

The Panthers hosted the invitational — which welcomed Lipscomb and Purdue in addition to Tulane — as a way to prepare for Big East Conference play, which begins in the final week of September… After winning only one set in six losses to start the season, the Pitt women’s volleyball team found a way to put a mark in the win column during the Pitt Invitational this weekend.

The Panthers hosted the invitational — which welcomed Lipscomb and Purdue in addition to Tulane — as a way to prepare for Big East Conference play, which begins in the final week of September.

In the first match of the tournament, Pitt faced Purdue, a Big Ten team that consistently earns NCAA Tournament bids and, according to head coach Toby Rens, is a strong competitor.

Purdue 3, Pitt 0

“With our first match against Purdue, we will definitely have a good idea on what we need to improve upon,” Rens said. “They are a team that always plays at a very high level.”

That level of play was evident, as the Boilermakers beat the Panthers in three straight sets with scores of 25-18, 25-23 and 25-20. The matches taught the Panthers that they need to improve offensively, since they typically out-dig their opponents on defense.

In the first set, the Panthers showed their ability to match the play of Purdue and managed to keep the score tight, at one point trailing 14-13. But the experience of the Boilermakers allowed them to push ahead with a 6-0 run and eventually take the set.

Despite a 3-0 loss, the Panthers did find points of encouragement to lead into their next match against Lipscomb.

Senior outside hitter Amy Town led the Panthers with nine kills against Purdue, and in her performance, solidified her role as a team leader.

“As our captain, Amy has been a complete player for us,” Rens said. “The rest of the team looks to her for leadership as they continue to work hard and come together as a group.”

Lipscomb 3, Pitt 0

The next opponent for Pitt was Lipscomb, but the positives the Panthers carried over from the previous match did not result in a victory.The Panthers were once again blanked 3-0 by scores of 25-15, 25-17 and 25-13.

The first set of this match took a route opposite that of the Purdue contest when the Panthers found themselves in an early 9-3 hole from which they never recovered.

Imani Harper, another Pitt senior and a middle hitter recorded eight kills in the contest, but the Panthers as a team earned only 30 to Lipscomb’s 48.

The Panther defense also lost to Lipscomb in the dig category, which is uncharacteristic of Rens’ team.

“Defensively, at times, I feel that we are better than most teams that we will face,” Rens said. “Sometimes it is just a matter of trying some things out and seeing where we are as a team.”

Defensive duties were distributed amongst the Panthers, as four players recorded five or more digs.

Pitt 3, Tulane 0

The persistence of the Panthers’ lineup maneuvers did pay off in the final match of the Invitational as the Panthers earned their first win of the season against Tulane.

Despite the shutout victory, the Panthers and the Green Wave battled for much of the match, as seen in set scores of 25-23, 26-24 and 25-21.

In her best career performance, sophomore Alexa Campbell, starting as an outside hitter, earned nine kills for the offense and added six digs.

The match also allowed the Panthers to work on another aspect of their defensive game.

In the first two matches, Pitt earned a combined total of 10 blocks. Against Tulane, the Panthers posted 12 blocks, six of which came off the hands of Harper, who earned All-Tournament honors.

Jenn Katona, a sophomore middle hitter also contributed four blocks, along with a team-high 10 kills.

The senior experience of Town and Harper, coupled with the young talent seen in Campbell and Katona will prove to be a winning combination, especially after facing tough competition, Rens said.

“Everyone, whether seniors or freshmen, benefits from the high level of play we have been exposed to,” Rens said. “This will only make us better before conference play begins.”

With the first win finally under their belts, the Panthers will travel to Ohio University Friday for their next tournament and face Ohio, Northwestern and Tennessee.

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