The Pitt News

Panthers finish regular season with two weekend wins

By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

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Two weeks ago, the Pitt volleyball team lost twice in a weekend for the first time all season. After that, the Panthers vowed to avenge their losses — and they did.

Pitt (25-6, 13-5 ACC) finished its season on a four-match winning streak, including wins against Louisville and Notre Dame this past week. Head coach Dan Fisher was pleased with the team’s play, especially its serving, on its final regular-season road trip.

“Different players stepped up at different times when we needed them to,” Fisher said, noting that both junior opposite Casey Durham’s play off the bench against Louisville and freshman outside hitter Mariah Bell’s bounce-back game against Notre Dame helped the team.

Louisville

Pitt outlasted the Cardinals 3-2 when the two teams faced off on Wednesday afternoon. The Panthers defeated Louisville 26-28, 25-20, 25-16, 23-25 and 15-12.

“We focused on our offense and hitting really hard because they picked up their defense since the last time we played them,” senior opposite Kate Yeazel said.

Sophomore outside hitter Maria Genitsaridi recorded a double-double with a team-leading and career-high 20 kills along with 10 digs, and senior opposite Mechael Guess added 18 and hit .333 in her hometown. The Panthers also outperformed their opponent in assists and digs, recording 21 and 16 more, respectively.

Early on in set one, the scores were close until the Panthers started a run. Louisville (15-15, 7-11 ACC) led 8-7 before Pitt ran off nine of 10, thanks to kills from Guess and Genitsaridi, who also added a service ace — one of 10 Pitt had on the night. Trailing 17-9, the Cardinals regrouped and mounted a comeback.

Louisville took a 3-1 lead in set two before Pitt answered and tied it up. With the score tied at six, the Panthers took control of the set and did not relinquish their lead. The momentum continued for Pitt, with the team taking a 10-4 lead in set three. Timely hitting and serving aided Pitt in an easy set win.

Out of the intermission, the Cardinals appeared to have the upper hand as they held a lead for the majority of set four. Pitt trailed 19-11 at one point but attempted to battle back and brought the score within one. Leading 24-19, Louisville allowed Pitt to score four straight before winning the set and tying the match. In the decisive final set, both teams swapped points before the Panthers jumped ahead 5-4. Once ahead, Pitt did not let the Cardinals come within more than two points.

“We did a really good job of keeping the intensity,” Yeazel said. “We banded together and some things didn’t go our way, but we pulled through.”

Junior middle hitter Amanda Orchard was happy with the final result.

“There were a lot of ups and downs, but we stuck together. We finished strong and were glad to get that W,” she said.

Notre Dame

In their final match of the season, the Panthers swept Notre Dame (6-23, 3-15 ACC) for the second time this season. Pitt defeated the Irish 25-20, 25-14 and 25-18. Orchard ended her impressive regular season by going perfect with 11 kills and zero errors and hitting .736. Yeazel and Bell both added nine kills.

“There was a pretty decent crowd there so a lot of energy was going through,” Yeazel said.

She added that because it was Notre Dame’s senior night, “there were a lot of things that could go wrong, but we had our eye on the prize and focused the entire time.“

Midway through set one the score remained tied with neither team taking a lead larger than two points. Three straight kills by Orchard and Yeazel handed the Panthers a 16-14 lead that was enough to hold off Notre Dame. The Panthers struggled early in the second set as Notre Dame kept things close. Eventually the Irish couldn’t restrain Pitt as a 10-4 run gave the Panthers a 23-14 lead.

Senior setter Lindsey Zitzke finished off the Irish with an ace. Despite being down 2-0 in the match, the Irish knotted the third set at 11 before the Panthers took the match, ending it on a three-point run.

“It’s always a great feeling to beat the Irish,” Orchard said. “Being our last regular season match, it was great to end on a high note.”

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Panthers finish regular season with two weekend wins