Panthers win twice to keep NCAA tournament hopes alive


By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

Entering this weekend having lost two straight, the Panthers knew they needed to win both weekend matches to salvage their chances of making the NCAA Tournament.

“We definitely needed the momentum back,” senior libero Delaney Clesen said.

On Friday, which was also Senior Night, Pitt (23-6, 11-5 ACC) defeated NC State 3-0. The team traveled to Charlottesville, Va., to take on Virginia on Sunday, where it won 3-1.

“We’re having a really good year, and we had a good year last year due to the five seniors for accepting me and my staff,” head coach Dan Fisher said. “[The team] really bought in, so it’s important to recognize not only tonight, but what they did the last two years.”

NC State

The Panthers gave their five seniors a proper send-off Friday night by sweeping NC State 25-22, 25-13 and 25-17.

“We were all ready for a win,” freshman outside hitter Mariah Bell said. “When we needed to execute everything, we did.”

Pitt outperformed the Wolfpack (15-13, 4-12 ACC) on both sides of the net. The team recorded 43 kills to NC State’s 31. Bell led Pitt with nine kills, while seniors Mechael Guess and Kate Yeazel were close behind with eight and seven, respectively. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Jenna Potts recorded six kills.

The Panthers had more blocks and digs than their opponent, with Clesen leading the team with 15 digs. Pitt also returned to its basics by serving well. The team aced NC State 11 times thanks to five players. According to Fisher, Pitt’s improved serving helped the team cope with the loss of former kills leader, senior outside hitter Jessica Wynn, at the net.

Early in set one, the Panthers had trouble finding a rhythm. It wasn’t until mid-set with the teams tied at 10 that Pitt began a run to take a lead that it never relinquished. Set two saw the teams exchanging points. When Maria Genitsaridi served three aces in a row to give Pitt a 9-5 lead, the momentum swung in Pitt’s favor and the team went on to easily win.

Out of the intermission, the Panthers scored the first five points in set three, causing NC State to take an early timeout. Pitt would jump ahead 11-3 before the Wolfpack would pull within three twice, the last coming at 16-13. The Panthers scored nine of 13 to complete the sweep.

“I’m so happy we get to leave on a win. It’s something I’ll never forget,” Clesen said.


Playing on the road had no effect on Pitt Sunday afternoon when it faced the Cavaliers (16-13, 9-7 ACC). Pitt defeated Virginia 25-18, 25-15, 22-25 and 25-14.

The Panthers continued their offensive prowess with 10 aces and opposites Guess and Yeazel recorded 16 and 15 kills, respectively. Bell went a perfect 6-for-6. Amanda Orchard also hit above .400, adding eight kills to Pitt’s total of 55. 

“We wanted to hit over .250 and we hit almost .350 so we were pretty pleased offensively,” Fisher said.

Fisher, along with Yeazel, credited the ball placement by his setters, Lindsey Zitzke and Jenna Jacobson, for Pitt’s success at the net. Zitzke had 29 assists, while Jacobson added 22.

“Our offense was really good,” Yeazel said. “Our setters were really spreading out the offense and getting everyone involved.”

Guess believed this was a team win.

“Every position did well throughout the whole game,” she said. “Everything put together [serving, hitting, setting and digging] made a really good match.”

The score in set one remained close before the Panthers went on a run at 17-12 that provided enough room for the team to pull out a win. Pitt ran off six of seven to start set two before Virginia came back to trail 8-6. Virginia was unable to complete its comeback as the Panthers took an 18-12 lead that stretched into 22-13.

The Cavaliers made adjustments during the intermission, which led the team to control set three. Virginia built a 6-2 lead that continued to grow despite Pitt’s efforts. The Cavaliers hung around in set four before Pitt took advantage of timely hitting to pull out an easy win.

The Panthers will continue their road play next week when they face Louisville Wednesday and Notre Dame Friday.

Guess said the wins were important for the team’s hopes of going 4-0 in its final matches of the season before hopefully moving onto the postseason.

“This is leading us in the right direction for next week,” she said.