Volleyball team reflects on weekend


By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

Pitt volleyball bounced back after its sole loss this season when the team competed in its own tournament, the Panther Classic, by sweeping Duquesne, Norfolk State and Niagara.

The Panthers (8-1) won their first five matches — now eight of nine after this weekend. In each of its wins, Pitt has not given a single set to its opponent.

Jessica Wynn was named the Panther Classic MVP. The senior outside hitter finished the weekend with two double-doubles. Wynn also had company on the All-Tournament Team. Teammates Amanda Orchard, Jenna Potts and Delaney Clesen also received honors.

Orchard, who had 17 kills during the weekend, said that, despite the team’s success, there is “still another level” that the team hasn’t shown yet.

Head coach Dan Fisher added that Pitt’s middles, Potts and Orchard, were strong this past weekend, but, otherwise, he would agree. 

“I think Jess has been our best offensive player, but I would say slightly. I think the strength of this team is that we can set anyone. We don’t have just one player that we are relying on,” Fisher said.

Securing, and eventually holding on to, a lead was the key to Pitt’s success in each of its three games. Pitt only trailed once throughout the weekend, but, even then, the Panthers did not allow Norfolk State’s one-point lead to last long. Pitt also won every set by four points or more, with the biggest point differential coming against Norfolk State when Pitt won one of the sets 25-14.

In the first home match of the season, Pitt faced cross-city rival Duquesne (5-4). Pitt revenged a prior loss from two years ago with a three-set sweep of its own and halted Duquesne’s three-match win streak. 

Pitt held control of the first set but was challenged when the Dukes brought the score within one, 12-11. The hosts fought off an offensive attack from the visitors and scored 13 of the next 20 points to finish the set with a 25-18 victory. 

“Last year, when we would get a lull in the game, we might drop one of the sets,” Orchard said. “This year, we are a new team. We’re a lot stronger and a lot tougher.”

The second set was a close match for the Panthers. The score went back and forth, with the teams tying multiple times before Pitt took a four-point lead, 16-12, that it never lost. Pitt would go on to win that set 25-19, before following up with a final set triumph, 25-15, thanks to a team hitting percentage of .429. Six Panthers recorded three or more kills, and the team recorded 19 for the set. Wynn, Orchard, Maria Genitsaridi, Casey Durham and Mechael Guess all had three kills. Potts led the team with four. Wynn and Lindsey Zitzke both had double-doubles, while Durham tallied a career-high 11 kills.

Saturday wasn’t a problem for Pitt, either. In its first match of the day, Pitt faced a winless Norfolk State squad. In the opening set, the Spartans battled back within two points to trail the Panthers 22-20. Pitt attempted to shift momentum by calling a timeout to try to slow down Norfolk State’s tempo. Pitt came out of the timeout and scored the final three points, including a service ace by Zitzke, one of twelve in the match for the Panthers.

According to Orchard, it’s all about having “faith” and  a mentality that “the next point is ours” when the team tries to fight out of a slump.

Teammate Mariah Bell added that, “Once we realize we are only up by a couple points, that’s when we start getting more fire and energy.”

Pitt’s solid offense continued into the second set, with the team scoring six straight points. The Panthers then used that quick start to easily handle the Spartans 25-11. The Panthers again jumped out to an early lead in the third set before surrendering four points. The Spartans then weaseled their way past the Panthers to establish a 15-14 lead. That lead didn’t last, as Pitt scored five straight points and never lost the lead again, winning the set 25-18.

A breakout star in this match for Pitt was freshman outside hitter Bell. Bell had nine kills in the match, with five coming in the final set.

“When they used me in the front row, I was swinging hard and high. I was facing every hit trying to get a kill every time,” Bell said.

Each of the three matches against Niagara was close, with Pitt managing to pull out a win. Pitt beat the Purple Eagles 25-19, 25-21, 25-19. Niagara (4-6) had a tough time stopping Pitt’s serving. Jenna Jacobson started the second set serving five straight points with three service aces. Jacobson recorded seven aces throughout the weekend.

Pitt wraps up tournament play this weekend when they host the Pitt Panther Invitational. Pitt will face South Florida on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Fitzgerald Field House. On Saturday, Pitt will face Sacred Heart and Delaware.