Women’s volleyball 2-1 in tourney

By Randy Lieberman

The Pitt women’s volleyball team went 2-1 in last weekend’s Nittany Lion Invitational,… The Pitt women’s volleyball team went 2-1 in last weekend’s Nittany Lion Invitational, falling to two-time defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Penn State in the concluding match.

Senior Meagan Dooley and junior Amy Town earned all-tournament honors as the Panthers (5-2) move on to play city rival Duquesne on Tuesday.

It was the second consecutive weekend the pair of Panthers was named to an all-tournament team. The previous weekend, it was the All-Sheraton Riverside Cardinal Classic in Louisville, Ky.

“It’s awesome, and it’s a big honor,” Town said. “Every tournament we play, obviously, I don’t have any personal goal. It just happens because I love to play as hard as I can.”

The coaching staff said it’s also pleased with the team’s play.

“Meagan and Amy certainly were worthy of the all-tournament team,” Pitt coach Toby Rens said. “The efforts they gave were very key to us having success over the weekend. I told Meagan that her that hitting .444 against Penn State was All-American-like.”

Dooley led the Panthers with a .481 hitting percentage in three matches last weekend while tallying 32 kills and 11 blocks.

Town posted 44 kills and 12 digs in the tournament and paced the Panthers with 14 kills versus Penn State.

Rens also said he thought Melissa Stadelman, who hit .357 against Penn State, was worthy of an all-tournament nomination.

Pitt took on the No. 1-ranked team for just the second time in its history. The other matchup came in 1990, when the Panthers dropped a 3-2 match against then top-ranked UCLA.

“I thought we showed a tremendous amount of poise and heart as a team. I was very happy with the approach we took in the match,” Rens said. “I felt like we executed our game plan very well. There’s no doubt Penn State is a very talented and No. 1 team right now, but we gave it our best effort and had some outstanding rallies with them.”

It was in this effort that the Panthers might have found some respect from the spectators.

“I think people really gained a newfound respect for us, even though we lost,” Dooley said. “We took some really big swings and we came out of it with some great compliments.”

Pitt and Penn State trace the roots of their programs to 1977, with the Nittany Lions leading the all-time series 29-17. The last time the two teams met, Penn State won 3-1 in the 2003 NCAA Tournament.

Pitt also earned shutout victories against another cross-town rival, Robert Morris, and Buffalo at the Recreation Center on Penn State’s campus last weekend.

“I feel like we picked up quality wins against Buffalo in the [Mid-American Conference] and Robert Morris,” Rens said. “I liked the focus we had. Winning those games 3-0 and knowing we were looking forward to the Penn State match, we still played at a high level against Buffalo and Robert Morris.”

Town led the Panthers with 15 kills against Robert Morris. Dooley and Stadelman notched 12 and 11 kills, respectively.

Pitt out-blocked Robert Morris 10-6 in the match. Junior Imani Harper led the way with five blocks.

The Panthers now lead the all-time series against Robert Morris 20-0.

In Pitt’s second game, sophomore Allyson Hodnik led the Panthers with 39 assists in their victory over Buffalo. Hodnik had an assist on every Panthers kill except for four. She also posted two blocks and an ace in the win.

“Ally did a really great job of running the team all weekend,” Rens said. “She came up with really great plays and great saves.”

Town again led the Panthers with 15 kills against Buffalo, while senior Michelle Rossi and junior Melanie Feldman each had nine digs.

After their match against Duquesne on Tuesday, the Panthers travel to Albuquerque, N.M., this weekend to take on Baylor, Cal State Fullerton and New Mexico in the New Mexico Tournament.