The Pitt News

Rolling Panthers face array of challenges this weekend

By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

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After defeating two conference opponents last weekend, the surging Pitt volleyball team’s road doesn’t get any easier this weekend. 

The Panthers will first face No. 4 Florida State on Friday, then Louisville Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

“We have to approach this game with a lot of confidence,” middle hitter Amanda Orchard said.

Friday’s match is a part of the Spike and Slam Madness, which starts at 7 p.m., and the volleyball match will be immediately followed by men and women’s basketball versions of Midnight Madness.

“It’s really pumping everyone up,” libero Delaney Clesen said about Friday night’s schedule. “We love having a good crowd here.”

Panther head coach Dan Fisher agreed. “It’s going to be a really exciting match. There’s going to be a big crowd so that’ll be fun for the girls,” he said. 

Pitt is coming into this weekend’s play on a high note, after receiving four votes in the AVCA Coaches rankings while winning four straight matches and 12 of their last 13.

The middles for the Panthers have been making a name for themselves nationally. Orchard ranks fifth in the country in hitting percentage, while middle blocker Jenna Potts ranks 12th in blocks per set.

“Both of those [Orchard and Potts] have been pretty consistent all year long,” Fisher said before adding that there is no one player to watch. “We have a lot of our girls playing pretty well right now.”

In the ACC, Pitt holds opponents to a leading .137 hitting percentage, which can be attributed to strong defense and serving. Clesen ranks third in ACC averaging 5.09 digs. Both of Pitt’s setters, Lindsey Zitzke and Jenna Jacobson, are in the top five in service aces averaging 0.50 and 0.45 respectively.

“That [serving] is a place where we are stronger than them, so that’s for sure going to be a big component,” Fisher said.

Florida State

The Seminoles (19-0, 7-0 ACC) are one of the hottest teams right now in Division I volleyball, sporting a perfect record. FSU ranks fourth in the AVCA Coaches polls. Prior to this season, the Seminoles won two of the last three and three of the last five ACC volleyball titles.

The FSU roster relies on Sarah Burrington, Nicole Walch and Katie Mosher. Middle blocker Burrington finds herself ranked 16th nationally in blocks, averaging 1.43 blocks. Top Seminole hitting leader Walch is having a stellar season, finding herself with an average of over four kills per set. Mosher, a redshirt senior libero, comes in second in the ACC averaging 5.16 digs.

According to Clesen, FSU’s record doesn’t scare the team. “We have nothing to lose. We talked about how we just need to go for it all the way.”

Despite being unbeaten, the Seminoles have struggled in their most recent matches, dropping a set against a below .500 team in Virginia Tech. Outside hitter Walch led the team with 10 kills but committed nine attack errors as well.

“It’s going to be a fun challenge and a challenge we’re willing to accept,” Orchard said.

Louisville

The visiting Cardinals (13-7, 5-3 ACC) come in rolling as well, as they’re the winners of three straight games entering Friday and ranked sixth in ACC.

It will be the second weekend in a row that the Panthers will take on an ACC Rookie of the Week winner —  freshman middle blocker Tess Clark. Clark has led Louisville in its last two matches, hitting more than .525, which bumps her hitting percentage up to fifth in the conference and 16th nationally.

Outside hitter/middle blocker Janelle Jenkins is also having an impressive season. The sophomore, a preseason All-ACC selection, ranks second for the Cardinals in kills and blocks per set. In her last match against NC State, Jenkins had 13 kills along with an ace and five blocks.

Orchard sees this weekend as a way to showcase the strong performance the Panthers have exhibited as of late.

“We’re really excited to get a lot people here to watch us and see how far we have come as a team.”

 

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Rolling Panthers face array of challenges this weekend