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Pitt takes winning streak into ACC road trip

By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

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No matter how well a team performs, coaches and players agree that road conference games always present a significant challenge to the visitors.

The Pitt volleyball team tests the challenge this weekend, as the team travels to Georgia Tech Friday evening and wraps up its weekend road trip with a Sunday afternoon match at Clemson.

“It’s more than the win-loss record when you go into these environments, so I think we’re going to have to manage some hostile environments,” head coach Dan Fisher said.

When Pitt (15-2, 3-1 ACC) faced both opponents last season, the Panthers were home and swept the Yellow Jackets and Tigers 3-0. The team travels south to play in both visiting arenas for their first time, leaving Mechael Guess and the team feeling eager to see what the schools’ volleyball crowds are like compared to when the team plays in front of its own fans.

“I heard Georgia Tech has a harsh crowd, but I don’t know how bad it is,” the senior opposite said before adding, “As long as we stick together as a team, we should be fine.”

Fisher said the road trip will be a new experience for his team.

“Clemson gets huge crowds. Georgia Tech is a smaller gym but it’s a big crowd packed into that gym,” the second-year coach said.

Friday night’s match will begin at 7 p.m. and Sunday’s afternoon match at 1 p.m. Both matches will air live on ESPN3. According to a Pitt press release, the Pitt-Clemson match will also air on local sports network Root Sports Pittsburgh.

 Georgia Tech

 The Yellow Jackets hold a 5-2 record when playing in O’Keefe Gym, with one of their losses coming against then-No. 5 Florida State. Georgia Tech (9-10, 2-4 ACC) will rely on its devoted fans to attempt to waver the Panthers, who come into the match currently on a two-match win streak.

“[Georgia Tech] is a very tough place to play. They get big crowds and it’s loud,” Fisher said. “Anything we remember about last year we need to forget. It’s going to be a really tough environment and tough team at home.”

Despite only having two seniors and two juniors, the young team is having a much better season than last thanks to sophomore Teegan Van Gunst. The outside hitter, who played all but one set during her freshman year, is improving in her second collegiate year. This season, Van Gunst leads the Yellow Jackets with an average of 3.59 kills per set.

In the team’s last match against Clemson, Van Gunst had 15 kills while senior outside hitter Courtney Felinski added 14.

 Clemson

 The Tigers (13-5, 2-3 ACC) also enter Friday on a two-match win streak and will test that when they face Notre Dame on the road. But Clemson has the hot hand with freshman setter Kate Federico anchoring the roster.

The reigning ACC Rookie of the Week tallied 90 assists last weekend, including 44 against the Yellow Jackets. Federico averages 9.88 assists per set.

Senior middle hitter Karis Watson, who leads the team in blocks, currently sits one block shy of 100, and senior outside hitter Kristin Faust averages 3.55 kills per set.

“Clemson is doing a lot better this year than last year, so it’ll be a challenge,” said Pitt middle blocker Jenna Potts, a redshirt sophomore.

The same can be said about the Panthers. Entering this weekend last season, Pitt had an 11-9 record. The difference from last year to this year is the team is working well together and relies on each position to succeed.

“Right now we are working as a team pulling out wins, especially against Syracuse. It got tight, but we all stuck together and pulled out a win,” Guess said.

Fisher is ready for his team to face a challenge and hopefully emerge triumphant. 

“It should be a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s going to be two really good college atmospheres.”

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Pitt takes winning streak into ACC road trip