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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

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An attendee speaks during the “Be a Good Neighbor” Town Hall in the William Pitt Union on Thursday evening.
Panel discusses renters’ rights, red flags to look out for
By Marissa Kelley, Staff Writer • 12:08 am

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An attendee speaks during the “Be a Good Neighbor” Town Hall in the William Pitt Union on Thursday evening.
Panel discusses renters’ rights, red flags to look out for
By Marissa Kelley, Staff Writer • 12:08 am

Pitt volleyball sweeps Washington State, advances to Elite Eight

The+Pitt+Panthers+celebrate+their+win+against+Washington+State+in+the+Fitzgerald+Field+House+on+Thursday.
Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor
The Pitt Panthers celebrate their win against Washington State in the Fitzgerald Field House on Thursday.

After Pitt volleyball lost graduate student right-side hitter Courtney Buzzerio to graduation last season, the Panthers knew they would struggle to fill the hole left by her departure. But luckily for Pitt, head coach Dan Fisher recruited first-year right-side hitter Olivia Babcock, who filled that role perfectly.

The first-year was dominant throughout the Sweet Sixteen sweep over Washington State, finishing the day with 15 kills, four service aces, six digs and five total blocks.

Babcock struggled last weekend at the beginning of the matches, but that wasn’t the case for the first year today. She started the match with four kills and an early hitting percentage of .375. Starting strong was especially important to Babcock’s mental game.

“I think after the past two games, I was kinda like, you know how this goes now,” Babcock said. “So there’s no point in letting yourself get in your head.”

Along with Babcock, the Panthers were using the middle blockers a ton offensively against the Cougars. Graduate students Emma Monks and Chiamaka Nwokolo both tallied two kills and had a combined hitting percentage of .800.

Freshman right-side hitter Olivia Babcock (5) spikes the ball during the game against Washington State in the Fitzgerald Field House on Thursday. (Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor)

The Panthers’ problem early on was that outside hitter first-year Torrey Stafford and redshirt senior Valeria Vazquez Gomez had only one kill and had a combined hitting percentage of .000. The Cougars contained the Panthers’ potent outside hitters, which helped them stay in the matchup with a score of 15-14 at the media timeout.

Junior setter Rachel Fairbanks continued to set her middle blockers, with both Monks and Nwokolo getting a kill, which helped the Panthers extend their lead to 21-17. 

Monks was happy with the early production and believed that Fairbanks setting her early made it easier for the pin hitters.

“We always try to run our middles on good passes,” Monks said. “So we can kind of open our pins and I think Rachel really executed.”

But the Cougars stayed in it despite the Panthers’ efforts, winning multiple long rallies. Fifth-year middle blocker Magda Jehlářová helped Washington State win multiple rallies. She had one kill to finish a rally and forced a Monks attacking error. After these two long winning Cougars’ rallies, Fisher called a timeout with Pitt only leading 21-19.

The Cougars continued to claw back off the timeout with a graduate student outside hitter Iman Isanovic kill. But Stafford and senior outside hitter/serving specialist Cat Flood put an end to this run with an ace from Flood and a kill from Stafford, causing a Washington State timeout with Pitt leading 23-20. 

Flood and Stafford kept the pressure on after the Washington State timeout, and both earned another ace and kill, helping the Panthers win set one 25-20.

The Panthers came out firing in the second set, Stafford continued her dominance from the end of set one with a block and a kill. Monks, who had dominated throughout the first set, also earned a block and a kill. Pitt’s fast start caused Washington State to use an early timeout, with the Panthers leading 5-1. 

Washington State’s timeout helped out Babcock more than anyone on the Cougar side of the net. Babock added three kills, two blocks and an ace following the Washington State timeout. The first-year’s dominance caused the Cougars to call another timeout, with the Panthers now leading 13-5.

Babcock made sure Washington State couldn’t mount any comeback. The Panthers’ right side hitter finished set two with six kills, three blocks and two aces, ultimately helping the Panthers win the second set 25-13. 

Babcock credits her success in the second set to a short talk she had with Fisher before the second set.

“I had a really short talk with [Fisher] before [the second] set,” Babcock said. “I don’t know what happened, but it really seemed to really work. Not that I was doing bad, but I just  feel like in the second set I woke up.”

Players fight for a rebound during the Backyard Brawl in Morgantown, WV Wednesday night. (Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor)

Monks started set three on a mission to send Pitt to their fourth straight Elite Eight by earning two blocks. The Cougars also couldn’t get out of their own way at the beginning of set three, posting five early attacking errors. Washington State’s struggles made it call yet another early timeout, with Pitt leading 8-2.

This timeout rejuvenated the Washington State side of the net, as the Cougars shrunk the Panthers’ lead to only three at 14-11. But the Panthers first-year firepower was too much for the Cougars, as both Stafford and Babcock earned a kill and forced Washington State to use their last timeout of the set with Pitt leading 17-11.

The Panthers refused to let off the gas from here. The back row, headed by junior libero Emmy Klika and graduate student defensive specialist Logan Mosley, refused to let any ball hit the floor. Pitt’s offense also continued its’ dominant hitting, which helped the Panthers take a game-clinching 25-16 match victory.

Fisher thinks highly of his team when it is at the top of its game. 

“This feels at times like the best team I have ever coached at Pitt when we are playing our best,“ Fisher said. “I think when we are firing on all cylinders we are pretty scary.”

The Panthers return to action Saturday in the Fitzgerald Field House as they face bitter ACC rival No. 2 Louisville (27-4, ACC 15-3) in Pitt’s fourth straight Elite Eight.

Babcock believes Pitt and Louisville play their best volleyball when they face off against each other.

“Louisville is one of those teams where neither one of us is going to back down,” Babcock said. “So it really is the first to 25. It really brings the best of both teams. “

 

About the Contributor
Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer