Panthers sweep tournament


By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

Although the Pitt volleyball team may have won all of its games over the weekend, the players know what they need to improve. 

Head coach Dan Fisher and the Panthers travelled to Bowling Green, Ohio, on Friday and Saturday to compete in the Hampton Inn Invitational, and they came out as tournament champions — winning all three matches. 

Hitting is one technique the Panthers will focus on during practice this week before they set off for a weekend tournament in Colorado. The final stat sheet for the weekend showed the Panthers had a great hitting percentage of .307, while opponents were held to .102. Junior Jenna Jacobson was excited by the way her teammates were “crushing every ball.” Jacobson added that the pin hitters-the opposite and outside positions- were “hitting really well” and no matter what that they just “kept swinging.” 

But Fisher believes the team can do better.

“Both our left sides did a really nice job. Our middles were solid,” Fisher said. “I thought our right sides were good, not great, so we want to get a little more production from our right sides.” 

Sophomore Maria Genitsaridi and senior Delaney Clesen were the two Panthers named to the All-Tournament team, and Genitsaridi was also named tournament MVP. Clesen led the Panthers in digs with 32 and tied for the top spot in serving aces with Genitsaridi with each recording six. According to Fisher, Pitt “won the serving and passing battle” against its opponents. 

On their way to becoming tournament champs, the Panthers (3-0, 0-0 ACC) beat Middle Tennessee State, Dayton and Bowling Green. Pitt didn’t drop a set during the tournament, even when they were tested.

The Panthers defeated Middle Tennessee State (1-2) on Friday in nail-biting fashion. All three sets were back and forth battles, during which Pitt pulled away from the Blue Raiders 25-21, 25-19 and 25-21.

Saturday, Pitt faced Dayton (2-1) and began to hit its stride. After winning a 25-21 battle in the first set, Pitt seemed to be in for another test but ultimately won 25-14 in set two. The final set of the match was much easier than the first two, with Pitt never losing the lead and sweeping the Flyers 25-12. Pitt tallied five serving aces compared to the Flyers’ one. 

“We pride ourselves on being a really good serving team, so we take it very seriously and try to apply a bunch of pressure — asserting pressure to the other team to get them out of system, and that’s been really working for us,” said Clesen, who had two aces during the last match against Dayton. 

In its final match of the weekend against the tournament host, Pitt continued its dominance. The Panthers scrapped together another first-set win with a score of 25-19. The Falcons (0-3) fell prey to the Panthers in the second set. Pitt scored 13 straight unanswered points, and Bowling Green put up a meager seven points before losing 25-7. The last set of the evening replicated the Panthers’ prior matches. The strong play of the team helped them pull away and win 25-14.

Defensively, Fisher also thought that the team did a good job but still had room to better themselves. Fisher believed that the “back-row defense was very good” but added that the Panthers’ blocking was “streaky.” Even so, it still threw off their opponents. 

Junior Jenna Jacobson echoed those thoughts.

“Our defense is something that we can improve on,” Jacobson said. “But our offense is pretty good.”Redshirt sophomore Jenna Potts was the Panthers’ top blocker this weekend, averaging one-plus blocks per set. The redshirt sophomore’s play caught the eye of her head coach.

“She is our best blocker without a doubt. It’s not even really close,” Fisher said. “She’s improved in practice to be our strongest blocker. I think it’s extremely important to develop more blockers like her.” 

Fisher added that despite her top performance, Potts has more to offer in future matches.

Clesen agrees with her coach that the Panthers’ defense needs to step it up in future matches.

“I think this weekend we were a little more stronger offensively, and so I know coming into practice this week to prepare for next weekend, we are definitely going to focus on a lot on our blocking and defense,” Clesen said. 

The team’s next game is against Georgia Southern University in Boulder, Colo., on Friday at 6:30 p.m. EST.