Volleyball: Pitt plays tough competition, falls to 5-6

By Randy Lieberman

After beginning the season 5-1, the Pitt women’s volleyball team now looks to snap a five-game… After beginning the season 5-1, the Pitt women’s volleyball team now looks to snap a five-game losing streak with its annual Blue-Gold Tournament at the Fitzgerald Field House this weekend.

Pitt dropped three matches this weekend in the Comcast Challenge, hosted by the University of New Mexico, and took just one set in the tournament.

The caliber of competition had a lot to do with the Panthers’ struggles.

Out of the three teams Pitt played — Baylor, Cal State Fullerton and New Mexico — only Cal State Fullerton had lost a match all season prior to the tournament. New Mexico and Baylor continue to lead the Mountain West Conference and Big 12 Conference, respectively.

“Baylor is 11-0 right now and the best team next to Penn State that we played all year. They’re getting votes for the top 25,” Pitt coach Toby Rens said. “Unfortunately, we never got going against them or the other teams. It was tough against that caliber of competition because they don’t give you any breaks.”

The Panthers said they look forward to returning to their home arena.

“We’re definitely looking forward to playing at home this weekend,” Rens said. “Nine of our first 11 games have been on the road, and our record isn’t where we want it to be. But we’ve seen a lot of growth in our team.”

The Panthers will take on Valparaiso on Saturday at 5 p.m. to begin the tournament. Pitt follows that with Maryland Eastern Shore and Youngstown State to conclude the weekend before charging into Big East play in the following weeks.

Before the tournament, the Panthers received eight votes for the AVCA Top 25.

The Panthers were swept in their first two matches in the Comcast Challenge against Baylor and Cal State Fullerton, but took the second set of their final match against New Mexico.

Junior Amy Town had 14 kills in the match and 35 on the weekend for the Panthers. Michelle Rossi led the Panthers in the match with 13 digs.

Senior Meagan Dooley paced the Panthers with 36 kills and 15 blocks in the tournament. She was the only Panther to be nominated for the All-Comcast Challenge team at the end of the tournament.

Dooley also improved to fourth on the career all-time block assists during the team’s second match, a 3-0 loss to Cal State Fullerton. She now has 308 career block assists, is fourth on the all-time career total blocks list (413) and is second all-time in career solo blocks (105).

“Meagan was great. She held a high-hitting percentage throughout the weekend at .306,” Rens said. “In our last match, she was a force and almost unstoppable at times. She played very well as a captain and an individual on the court.”

The Panthers maintained block advantages in two of their three matches, out-blocking Cal State Fullerton 8-6 and New Mexico 13-9.

Senior Melissa Stadelman notched 18 kills and two service aces on the weekend, including 10 kills in the team’s final match against New Mexico.