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Panthers continue hot start with wins over weekend - The Pitt News

The Pitt News

Panthers continue hot start with wins over weekend

By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

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Lately, the Pitt women’s volleyball team has seemed unbeatable, dropping only one of its last 11 matches, including this weekend’s sweep of Notre Dame and Syracuse. Fans have noticed. Friday’s home game featured a large pinked-out crowd for breast cancer awareness, and it was marked by an appearance from men’s basketball head coach Jamie Dixon.

Pitt (15-2, 3-1 ACC) dominated the Irish Friday evening at home 25-23, 25-18 and 25-13.

“We really needed a win after UNC and that close game,” senior libero Delaney Clesen said. “This brings us one step closer to our goal and getting to that NCAA tournament.”

A quick turnaround took the Panthers on the road as they travelled to Syracuse and defeated the Orange 3-1 Sunday. The scores were 25-13, 17-25, 25-23 and 25-23.

Despite the win, the Panthers appeared frenzied against Syracuse, and they didn’t play as well as they have previously.

“We’re looking at the positive: This is a good team that we beat on the road, and any time we get a road win in the ACC, we’re pretty happy,” head coach Dan Fisher said.

Notre Dame

The Panthers started each set securing the first point. Senior opposite Mechael Guess led Pitt with 10 kills, and junior teammate Amanda Orchard continued her scorching season. The junior middle blocker recorded eight kills and hit an extremely impressive .727 for the match, which Fisher said is so high it’s “almost laughable.”

“She just seems to be finding a way to kill balls no matter what the set or situation is,” Fisher said. “Mechael came in and gave us a nice lift. Her and Kate [Yeazel] had nice nights offensively.”

Pitt beat the Irish (4-13, 1-5) with the help of aces, with four players tallying two or more aces. Setter Jenna Jacobsen led the team with four. Pitt held Notre Dame’s top hitter Jeni Houser to eight kills.

In set one, the teams exchanged points early before Notre Dame attempted to pull away from the Panthers. With the score tied at 13, the Irish scored five straight, thanks to three attack errors committed by Pitt. After swapping points, Pitt rallied from 15-20 to 20-21. Kills by senior outside hitterJessica Wynn and senior opposite Yeazel tied it at 22 before winning set one.

Although Notre Dame never held a lead in set two, the Irish tied the set twice. Eventually, the Panthers built a lead. Despite having set point, Notre Dame scored three straight before Pitt finished off its opponents.

The final set exposed the Irish defensive weaknesses, and Pitt took advantage of them. Pitt took a commanding 12-3 lead thanks to kills from Wynn, Yeazel, Guess and Orchard. Notre Dame struggled to find a way to score as Pitt added to its large lead before ending the match with strong momentum.

“This is a good win. This was one of our goals. We really wanted to beat Notre Dame so we came out and did that tonight,” Guess said.

Clesen added, “We’re super excited. We’re both seniors, and this is the first time that we have beaten Notre Dame since we have been at Pitt.”

Syracuse

In its first conference road-match of the year, Pitt was scrappy in beating its opponent, which hasn’t won a conference game yet this season. Three Panthers had 10-plus kills — Wynn (15), Maria Genitsaridi (13) and Orchard (10) — while Clesen added a match-high 22 digs. Syracuse’s Silvi Uattara had a match-high 21 kills.

“They definitely came out ready to play,” Wynn said. “They pushed us, but we were ready to push back. It wasn’t our best day but we got the job done.”

The team’s momentum from Friday’s match carried over to Sunday in set one, with the Panthers taking a 10-3 and 19-10 lead thanks to solid hitting from Wynn and sophomore Genitsaridi before capturing a set victory.

A letdown happened in set two when Syracuse forced Pitt to play catch-up for the whole set. Despite Pitt tying the score multiple times, Syracuse (7-11, 0-6 ACC) never relinquished its lead and dominated the Panthers in the later half. The Orange went up 17-11 before winning their only set.

The Panthers bounced back in set three as stats for the two teams mirrored one another. Back-and-forth play occurred before Pitt jumped out to a 14-10 lead credited to a Wynn kill and Orange attack errors. Syracuse evened the score at 23, but Pitt held on to win the set.

“There were a lot of back-and-forth plays, so we tried to stay calm but urgent at the same time instead of freaking out and hitting out of our comfort zones,” said senior Lindsey Zitzke.

Both teams struggled in the fourth set, hitting below .100, but Pitt managed to win. The Panthers found themselves down early but tied it at nine and traded points until finally winning the set and the match.

“We did a really good job of having each other’s backs,” Zitzke said.

Fisher agreed with his starting setter.

“The real key was us being a great team,” he said. “It got really sloppy [at the end], so there was a lot of time for people to get frustrated, but we didn’t. Whenever there was a problem, we stuck together and looked each other in the eye and figured it out.”

Pitt has almost a week off before the team travels for a Friday night match at Georgia Tech and a Sunday afternoon match at Clemson.

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Panthers continue hot start with wins over weekend