The Pitt News

Seniors take home court for last time on Friday night

By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

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Friday night’s match means a lot to Kate Yeazel. It’ll be the last time the opposite — along with teammates Delaney Clesen, Jessica Wynn, Lindsey Zitzke and Mechael Guess — will wear a Pitt jersey at the Fitzgerald Field House.

“It’s definitely crazy. It’s such a cliche, but your four years go so fast,” Yeazel said. “I don’t think it has actually sunk in yet.”

Head coach Dan Fisher said the seniors “deserve to be recognized,” especially after what they have done in the two years with him coaching the team. The Panthers went from having a 119 RPI in 2012 to improving 37 spots in that category last season. Pitt currently ranks 54th in the nation.

“Now we’re on the verge of making the tournament, and I think they have a big part of that,” Fisher said. “Hopefully it will be a decent crowd and a special day for them.”

When the Panthers (21-6, 9-5 ACC) take the court Friday at 7 p.m. to honor their five senior players, the team won’t just be trying to win for them, but also to return to its winning ways. Pitt has struggled against its last two opponents, winning only one of seven sets in those losses.

“We’re just trying to get back into the swing of things and get the bases down,” junior middle hitter Amanda Orchard said.

Yeazel also said the team concentrated on fundamentals this week.

“We’re really focusing on some of the things that have been weaker like our pass game, things like defensive intensity and our blocking,” Yeazel said.

She added that the blocking game has improved over the past few practices.

North Carolina State

The Wolfpack (14-12, 3-11 ACC) enter Friday night having lost two straight and 11 of 13 matches. Working in Pitt’s favor is that its opponent has managed to win only once on the road, holding a 1-7 record.

One of the Wolfpack’s players that has caught Fisher’s eye is freshman Kaitlyn Kearney, who continues to evolve as a leader as the season progresses. 

“Something that is unique right now is that their leading kills per set player is a middle [blocker]. They’re finding a way to get a middle 2.75 kills per set,” Fisher said. “We’re going to have to do a good job against her.”

After reviewing tape, Fisher and his staff noticed patterns in NC State’s rotations, and have spent practices preparing the team to defend those rotations. On top of defending Kearney, Fisher said NC State’s ball control is an area of concern.

“I think their ball control is decent, so we’re going to have to have a good serving game as well,” he said.

Virginia

The Panthers make a quick turnaround this weekend when they travel to Virginia to play the Cavaliers Sunday at 1 p.m.

Virginia (15-12, 8-6 ACC) is only one spot behind Pitt in the ACC rankings and has an 8-2 home record. But the Cavaliers have been streaky all season long. Entering its match Friday night, Virginia has lost three in a row, but, prior to that, it won four ACC matches.

Setter Lauren Fuller leads the Cavaliers with 10.64 assists per set, which also ranks her third in the conference. The junior is one of five Virginia players to tally more than 20 service aces — the team leader is senior outside hitter Tori Janowski with 33. Virginia’s serving can be problematic for the Panthers, who struggled to defend serves in their last match against Virginia Tech.

Fisher and his staff remain concerned about Pitt’s upcoming stretch of matches, which includes four matches in eight days.

“We are going pretty short right now,” he said.

Fisher added that the long season is wearing the team down physically. That includes the foot injury to outside hitter Wynn, who has missed the last four games and possibly may be out for the season.

“We’re pretty concerned with keeping people fresh and making sure we get enough sleep,” he said.

Despite that, the goal of making the NCAA Tournament remains the focus for the team.

“As a staff and a team, we are pretty focused on just our mental state and how we play really hard,” Fisher said.

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Seniors take home court for last time on Friday night