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Volleyball: Panthers pass test before ACC slate

By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

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If Thursday night’s match was a test for the volleyball team’s upcoming ACC schedule, the team would be pretty happy with the grade it got.

The Pitt volleyball team faced its toughest opponent Thursday and held off the surging Long Island University Brooklyn in four sets. The Panthers (12-1) won the home match 3-1 with the scores reading 25-22, 26-24, 22-25 and 25-21. Pitt has now won seven straight matches.

“We never gave up and I’m just really proud of all my teammates,” junior middle hitter Amanda Orchard said. “We all stuck it out and, even though we did lose the third set, we knew we were going to win this match. I’m just really proud of us.”

Junior outside hitter Casey Durham, who had 10 kills off the bench, agreed.

“I’m really happy with this team with the way we came back from being down. This is a really big win for us,” she said.

Pitt surrendered the first point to LIU Brooklyn (9-5) in each of the first three sets and often trailed, but the team fought back in each set.

“The only way to do that is to be in stressful situations in practice and that’s what we try to do,” head coach Dan Fisher said. “There is just a greater belief this year than other years that when we’re down, we can go on runs and are capable of scoring points in bunches. We stayed pretty patient, which was good to see.”

The tempo ran in favor of the visiting Blackbirds in the first set. After the Panthers trailed 6-5, the Blackbirds ran off four points before Pitt scored on a Maria Genitsaridi kill. Despite the superior play of LIU Brooklyn, Pitt held on and scored four straight to take a 16-15 lead, thanks to a Kate Yeazel kill, a block and service ace by Jenna Jacobson, as well as an attack error by LIU Brooklyn.

From that point on, the set was back-and-forth as the score tied five times before Pitt took advantage of two attack errors by the Blackbirds to secure a 22-all tie. Jessica Wynn proceeded to record three straight kills as Pitt went on to win the set.

The second set mirrored the previous set with the Blackbirds scoring six of eight points to start. As soon as Pitt closed the gap, LIU Brooklyn extended its lead with kills by star players senior Annika Foit and junior Tamara Ignjic, as well as errors by the Panthers.

The set eventually tied at 23. Pitt had match point at 24-23 but a kill by Ingjic tied the set. A kill from Durham and a LIU Brooklyn attack error sealed the win.

The Panthers seemed to have control in the third set by either leading or keeping the score tied until late. But, eventually, LIU Brooklyn took a 22-21 lead that they never relinquished.

Set four was the first set in which the Panthers scored the first point. Their lead, though, was short-lived as the Blackbirds scored the next two, and the score eventually tied at 15. After that tie, Pitt led the rest of the set with its largest margin only being three points.

The stat sheet for the Panthers showed some sloppy play, committing eight block errors compared to LIU Brooklyn’s zero. Serving is normally a strong point for Pitt, but, overall, the team had eight service errors and only three aces.

“I thought we got a huge lift from Casey Durham off the bench,” Fisher said. “She came in and hit .304 and had four blocks. More than the four blocks, she had a lot more touches that they covered or slowed it down for our defense.”

Compared to the Blackbirds, the Panthers outblocked LIU Brooklyn 13.5 to 9. Pitt also had more digs and kills, 68-48 and 70-51 respectively.

“The story for me right now is that we had five players with double-digit kills,” Fisher added. “It was a true team effort tonight offensively. Defensively, it was hit or miss. But clearly Delaney with 20 digs is pretty impressive. It was a good night for her.”

Wynn recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 15 kills and 16 digs. Orchard had 11 kills as well as four blocks, while Jenna Potts had seven kills and six blocks. Setter Lindsey Zitzke, to whom Durham credited her success, had 36 assists.

“Looking back to a year ago, it [middle hitters and middle blockers] was a weak spot for us, but it’s a huge strength for us now,” Fisher said. “A game where Amanda doesn’t hit .400 is like a rarity now. We’re getting a real nice performance from both of them and six and four blocks is solid defensively. They were huge.”

Pitt will play in its first conference match this Sunday when it hosts Boston College at 1 p.m. According to Orchard, LIU Brooklyn was the perfect test for the upcoming match.

“This is a good team and the ACC is a tough conference with a lot of tough teams coming up,” she said. “I think it did prepare us but I think we still have a whole other level that we can bring and I’m pretty excited for the upcoming games.”

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Volleyball: Panthers pass test before ACC slate