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Pitt hoping to fight through pain in two weekend matches - The Pitt News

The Pitt News

Pitt hoping to fight through pain in two weekend matches

By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

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The Panther volleyball team is off to one of its best starts in team history but is starting to feel the effects of the challenging slate of ACC conference games.

Although a significant percentage of the squad is facing injuries, Pitt (18-3, 6-2 ACC) will have a split weekend facing Virginia Tech in Blacksburg Friday evening at 7 p.m. and hosting Syracuse Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

“We have a few players banged up,” head coach Dan Fisher said. “We’re trying to stay healthy and get enough reps to stay sharp.”

Players Jessica Wynn and Amanda Orchard, two of Pitt’s top hitters, have battled foot and elbow injuries, respectively, for a while now, and five other players are facing tendonitis issues in their knees or shoulders.

Last weekend, the Panthers performed strong early on in two matches, but achieved mixed results. Pitt fell to then-No. 4 Florida State 3-2 and beat Louisville 3-1.

The close loss and injuries still haven’t placed a damper on the team’s spirits.

“The morale is still good,” Fisher said.

Virginia Tech

The Hokies (9-13, 2-7 ACC) have struggled as of late to string together wins, losing seven of their last nine matches. Five of those losses went to five sets. 

“They’re in games and playing well, but they’re not getting the results they want,” said Fisher, currently in his second year as head coach of the Panthers.

Despite these struggles, Virginia Tech holds a 5-3 record when playing at Cassell Coliseum.

Outside hitter Lindsey Owens is a bright spot in the lineup for the Hokies. Owens, a sophomore, currently leads the team in hitting and averages 3.37 kills. Redshirt senior libero Megan Beckwith ranks ninth in conference standings with the digs. Beckwith digs 3.65 balls per set.

“That’s a scary team for us,” Fisher said. “We have to make sure we come in there ready to put the pressure on right away.” 

Syracuse

Only 18 days ago, the Orange played Pitt when the team travelled to Syracuse. The Orange was unable to hold off the then-streaking Panthers in their home arena and fell 3-1.

Syracuse (8-13, 1-8 ACC) has also struggled this season when facing conference opponents, with its only win coming on Oct. 19 versus Wake Forest, placing them at the bottom of the rankings. While on the road, the Orange are unable to find ways to win, with their last road victory dating all the way back to the beginning of September. 

Junior Silvi Uattara continues to be a star for Syracuse. The outside hitter leads the team in kills and digs. She also ranks among the top five conference kills leaders, averaging a little less than four kills per game. 

“[Uattara] is a really good outside hitter that we need to stop,” setter Jenna Jacobson said. 

Along with Uattara, Fisher is keeping an eye on middle blocker Monika Salkute.

“They have been moving [Salkute] around,” Fisher said. “She’s a very physical player that is capable of causing some problems.”

The Panthers are starting to receive respect from coaches in the polls. The votes for Pitt tripled in the last week in the AVCA Coaches Poll, with the team receiving 12. 

Middle hitter Orchard’s stellar season remains intact. The junior is ranked fifth nationally in hitting percentage. Orchard’s teammate at the net, middle blocker Jenna Potts, is currently 17th in the nation in blocks per set with 1.41. 

Although Orchard and Potts have enjoyed their share of success, they are still trying each week to better themselves.

“Amanda and I have been working on synched blocking so we can read the setter better,” Potts said about this week’s practice.

Pitt currently has a 10-2 record at home with its two losses coming at the hands of ranked opponents. The home crowd has helped the Panthers hold an edge over their opponents, and Potts and the team are well aware of that.

“As much as we can be home, the better,” the Potts said.

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Pitt hoping to fight through pain in two weekend matches