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 defeats USC, advances to Sweet Sixteen

Junior+setter+Rachel+Fairbanks+%2810%29+celebrates+after+a+point+during+Saturday+night%E2%80%99s+match+against+USC+in+the+second+round+of+the+2023+NCAA+Tournament+at+the+Petersen+Events+Center.
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Junior setter Rachel Fairbanks (10) celebrates after a point during Saturday night’s match against USC in the second round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at the Petersen Events Center.

No. 1 Pitt volleyball (26-4, 16-2 ACC) had a tough challenge in the second round against No. 8 USC (19-13, Pac 12 12-8). But the Panthers handled the challenge and defeated the Trojans in four sets.

“I think when we are playing our best, we are pretty scary,” Pitt head coach Dan Fisher said. 

The Panthers started the game off how they did against Coppin State in round one — not playing their best with multiple hitting errors. The Trojans forced the Panthers to hit -.182 early on, causing Fisher to call a timeout with the Trojans leading 9-6.

Fisher’s timeout energized the Panthers to go on a quick 5-1 run, making the score 11-10 with the Panthers now leading. 

But the Trojans were not going to give up this quick. The Trojans immediately responded to the adversity with a 6-2 run and now led 16-13, showing the Panther fans how volleyball truly is a game of momentum.

With the Trojans taking control, the Panthers responded with a 6-3 run led by two first-year outside hitter Torrey Stafford kills, knotting the game up at 19.

First-year rightside hitter Olivia Babcock (5) serves the ball during Saturday night’s match against USC in the second round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at the Petersen Events Center. (Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor)

Right-side hitter Olivia Babcock also started to take control of the game with two straight kills, making the Trojans call a timeout with Pitt leading 22-20.

The Trojans were rejuvenated by this timeout. USC senior outside hitter Skylar Fields was the catalyst of the Trojans’ post-time-out success and had two straight kills of her own.

Fields’ domination caused the Panthers to call a timeout after one more Trojan kill, with USC now leading 23-22.

Pitt’s timeout didn’t stop the Trojans from closing the set out by taking advantage of the Panthers’ errors, winning set one 25-23.

The Panthers came out seeking vengeance in set two. Redshirt senior outside hitter Valeria Vazquez Gomez led the charge with two kills on two attempts, leading to a very early Trojans timeout with Pitt leading 4-0.

Just like the first set, the Trojans would not quit easily. They responded with a 4-0 run of their own, led by sophomore middle blocker Tyrah Ariail at the service line.

The two teams went back and forth after the initial four point spurts until they were knotted up at 10. The Trojans then went on a 3-0 run led by three straight kills from Ariail, causing Fisher to use his first timeout of the set with the Trojans leading 13-10. 

The Panthers started to claw back in it after the timeout. The Panthers rotation with Fairbanks at the service line proved deadly, scoring three straight points and leading to a Trojan timeout with the teams tied at 16.

The Trojans timeout made the Panthers block to wake up. After the tie game at 16, the Panthers — who have the best blocking in the ACC — had four blocks, helping the Panthers close the set two out winning 25-20.

Besides the talented Panthers block, junior setter Rachel Fairbanks played at an All-American level with an impressive one-handed set that resulted in a kill. Babcock also believed that Fairbanks looked like an All-American by flipping the switch in set two for Pitt. 

“Rachel played a huge role in us flipping the switch,” Fisher said. “She would just tell us what we needed to hear. She was like, ‘guys let’s go.’ Something about Rachels energy.”

The third set started out with the teams tied at 4-4. But big-time digs by junior libero Emmy Klika sparked a 6-1 run for the Panthers, causing another early in the set Torjans timeout with Pitt leading 10-5.

The Panthers didn’t let USC spark an immediate comeback following the timeout. Pitt stayed on the gas with Fairbanks at the service line, causing the Trojans to call their second timeout of the set with the Panthers now leading 15-7.

Pitt suffocated USC for the rest of the set, ultimately winning 25-18. This was despite a strong comeback effort from the Trojans, with junior setter Mia Tuaniga going on a 4-0 run at the service line. 

In the third set, the Panthers had a hitting percentage of .481, which was far better than the first two sets when Pitt had a hitting percentage of .087 and.188, respectively.

With its title hopes on the line, Pitt kept on the pressure. Stafford added three more kills in front of the crowd of 4,936, making the Trojans use a timeout with the Panthers leading 10-6. 

And Stafford loves playing in moments like this, in front of big crowds in big stadiums.

“I love the crowd,” Stafford said. “I love the vibe of the big game.” 

The Trojans refused to go out easily and sparked a 6-3 run with Fields getting an ace at the service line, causing a Pitt timeout with Pitt leading 13-12.

Pitt graduate student defensive specialist Logan Mosley was especially key to this run and had two clutch serve receive passes to stop USC from gaining any momentum, helping lead Pitt to a 25-18 fourth set victory. The Panthers ultimately walked away with the 3-1 victory.

Fisher was super excited to see Mosley excelling in her role off the bench. 

“She’s one of our best passers and defenders,” Fisher said. “I think in the last month she’s gotten good in that coming off the bench role.”

The Panthers return to action on Thursday in the Fitzgerald Field House as they face the winner of No. 4 Washington State (25-7, Pac 12 14-8) and No. 5 Dayton (32-2, A10 18-0) in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Pitt Panthers play USC during Saturday night’s match in the second round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at the Petersen Events Center. (Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor)

About the Contributor
Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer