The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

Pitt volleyball sweeps Coppin State in NCAA first-round

Graduate+student+setter+Lexis+Akeo+%281%29+celebrates+a+point+during+Friday+night%E2%80%99s+volleyball+match+against+Coppin+State+in+the+first+round+of+the+2023+NCAA+Tournament+at+the+Petersen+Events+Center.+
Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer
Graduate student setter Lexis Akeo (1) celebrates a point during Friday night’s volleyball match against Coppin State in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at the Petersen Events Center.

No. 1 Pitt (26-4, 16-2 ACC) didn’t mess around in their first-round matchup against Coppin State (27-4, MEAC 13-1) as the Panthers made easy work of the Eagles in a sweep.  

The Panthers looked tenser than usual to start their postseason play with multiple uncharacteristic hitting errors from ACC Freshman of the Year and right-side hitter Olivia Babcock, causing Pitt to start at a 6-2 deficit.

Head coach Dan Fisher voiced his frustrations with the early errors at the post-game press conference. 

“On our side, we were a little too high error, especially offensively, to start the match,” Fisher said.

First-year outside hitter Torrey Stafford (4) and graduate student middle blocker Chiamaka Nwokolo (20) jump to block a ball during Friday night’s volleyball match against Coppin State in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at the Petersen Events Center. (Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer)

After the Panthers struggled early, redshirt senior outside hitter Valeria Vazquez Gomez got Pitt back on track. As soon as Vazquez Gomez made it to the front row, junior setter Rachel Fairbanks went to her. Vazquez Gomez had three kills on four attempts at the media timeout, with Pitt now leading 15-12. 

Off the timeout, Pitt went on a quick 3-0 run that led to a Coppin State timeout, with graduate student middle blocker Emma Monks accounting for all three points. The Michigan State transfer had two kills and a block during the run.

Pitt stayed on the gas pedal to end the set, winning set one 25-18. The Panthers finished set one hitting .235 — well below their season average hitting percentage of .306. But the defense was on point, holding Coppin State to a .062 hitting percentage.

In set two, the Panther’s early jitters were gone and they looked like their No. 1 ranking. Fairbanks was sharing the ball all over the court, with four separate Panthers having a kill, causing Coppin State to call a timeout with Pitt leading 9-2.

“I think games like this are a good opportunity to get every hitter in rhythm,” Fairbanks said. “So definitely trying to get every single hitter in a good flow of things. And then I like to repeat hitters sometimes, it just depends on how the game’s going.”

Coppin State showed the Panthers it wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The Eagles went back and forth with the Panthers, matching every point until the score was 16-9.

But the Panthers completely dominated for the rest of the set. Two first-year outside hitters, Torrey Stafford and Blaire Bayless, who was subbed in for Vazquez Gomez, especially dominated. They both had three kills on three attempts. 

The first-year outside hitters helped the Panthers win set two by a score of 25-14. The Panthers attacked harder and finished set two hitting .324. The defense still dominated and made the Eagles hit -.154 percent.

In the potential game-finishing set, the Panthers came out hot as they did in set two by winning multiple long rallies. Junior libero Emmy Klika was the key piece in keeping the rallies alive because of her digging and covering, leading to a 6-3 advantage for the Panthers.

With the junior on a tear in set three, all the momentum of the game was on Klika’s side. The junior believes that the job of a libero and the sport of volleyball has a lot to do with momentum.

“Your defensive intensity starts from the beginning,” Klika said. “There’s a lot of momentum that goes into being a libero, but I think that’s also just the sport of volleyball. It’s a big momentum sport.”

Off the early advantage led by Klika, the Panthers stayed on the gas pedal, with Stafford once again leading the Panthers charge. She had one kill and an ace, leading to a Coppin State timeout with Pitt leading 10-4. 

The Panthers didn’t let the Eagles do anything for the rest of the game and ultimately won 25-9 in the third set.

Pitt held the Eagles to a -.212 hitting percentage, while the Panthers hit .310. The Panthers’ defense dominated throughout the game and forced the Eagles to hit -.099 on the night.

The Panthers return to action tomorrow night in the Petersen Events at 7 p.m. as they face No. 8 USC (19-12, Pac 12 12-8) in the second round.

Fisher is excited for tomorrow’s match and knows the Panthers have to get out to a strong start.

“I think the biggest one is to just be ourselves from the start,” Fisher said about the second-round match with USC. “We don’t want to lose points or a set because we are not ready to go from the beginning. Every match has a different energy and has a different story, so we will start preparing for our tough opponent.”

The Trojans have one of the best players in the nation in senior outside hitter Skylar Fields. Both Fairbanks and Klika are excited for the matchup.

“Just getting to watch them in the first set tonight and just throughout the week preparing,” Klika said. “It’s something that I have been looking forward to.”

About the Contributor
Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer