Pitt defeats Boston College, wins first ACC game of year


By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

The Fitzgerald Field House continues to be a haven for Pitt success, as the team extended its winning streak to eight Sunday afternoon against Boston College. 

The Panthers defeated the Eagles 25-22, 25-18 and 25-11.

“They were a really solid team. We watched a lot of film on them, and we knew they were going to be good, so it was awesome to come out and sweep them,” senior setter Lindsey Zitzke said.

Senior outside hitter Jessica Wynn agreed and said the win was a “confidence boost.” 

Pitt (13-1, 1-0) not only beat its 11th opponent of the season in straight sets but won its first ACC conference match, too. The Panthers seem to have Boston College’s number with the overall series record reading 19-1, as the team swept BC last season in conference play with a 3-0 and 3-2 win.

“It feels great. It feels really good, especially knowing that was a really good volleyball team,” Pitt head coach Dan Fisher said. “They beat Louisville a couple days ago. It was very important to start off with a win in conference play.” 

Serving was an issue for Pitt in its last match, but that was not the case Sunday. Both setters for the Panthers — Zitzke and junior Jenna Jacobson — had two aces, and Wynn had one. With her second ace, Zitzke reached 152 for her career, tying the program record for most aces.

“We definitely served better tonight,” Fisher said. “It definitely influenced the game, especially the second set. I didn’t think we played particularly well, but we served so tough, that was the difference. If not, they might have taken that [set].”

Wynn led the team in kills with 19, while senior libero Delaney Clesen recorded 19 digs. Defensively, Pitt outdid the Eagles (6-7, 1-1 ACC) in digs and blocks. 

The Panthers also held two of BC’s top players to a negative hitting percentage. Outside hitters Katty Workman and Sol Calvete had less-than-average games. Due to Pitt’s defensive success, the Eagles’s were forced to rely on right side Julia Topor, who finished the match hitting .417 with 18 kills.

“They rely a lot on their outside hitters, so we focused on that a lot,” Wynn said. “But they definitely have a lot of options. [Topor] had a really good game. She picked up the slack for the outside hitters.”

Fisher agreed that the Panthers couldn’t stop Topor. 

“We couldn’t do anything against her tonight,” the second-year head coach said. “It was a big offensive night for her.”

Middle hitter Amanda Orchard continued her successful season with another match where she hit above .400. The junior hit .583 with eight kills and two and a half blocks.

After exchanging the first two points of set one, Pitt went on a five-point streak, thanks to kills by Wynn and opposite Kate Yeazel, and three attack errors by BC. 

The Panthers held a comfortable lead against the Eagles throughout the set until late, when they ran into trouble. With the score reading 17-11, BC soared back into the game. Back-to-back attack errors on the Panthers, as well as three aces by the Eagles’ setter Kellie Barnum, brought BC within one. 

Despite a Pitt timeout, the Eagles tied the set at 20. But the Panthers’ luck changed when BC’s top hitter, Workman, had two attack errors in a row. Up 22-20, kills from Wynn and Orchard paved the way for the set win.

“The biggest thing I am pleased with as a team is that we kept both outside hitters to a negative hitting percentage,” Fisher said. “I don’t know if we have ever done that, but what I do know is that if you do that, it’s hard for the other team to beat you. So there was a big effort against their left side hitters.”

Pitt’s struggles continued into the second set, as the Panthers dropped the first three points before a kill by Yeazel put the team on the board. Pitt would remain trailing or tied for the first half of the set before taking off. The largest lead for the Panthers would be 17-11, with a handful of points coming from BC errors. 

Pitt sealed the victory in set two thanks to a service ace by Jacobson, along with kills by Wynn, Orchard and outside hitter Mariah Bell, who came in for sophomore outside hitter Maria Genitsaridi.

Set three was the best set of the match for the Panthers. The team jumped out to a 6-2 lead, with a Genitsaridi kill starting an early run. The Panthers added to their lead with kills by Wynn, Orchard and middle blocker Jenna Potts, upping the score to 11-5.

The Eagles were unable to hold off Pitt as Wynn, Casey Durham and Orchard had back-to-back kills while Jacobson recorded a second ace to bring her team to a 22-11 lead. Wynn added a kill of her own, and the final two points of the set, and ultimately the match, were on two attack errors by the Eagles.

“I am proud of the way we took care of the things that we were keying on, and it’s exciting to start the ACC off with a win,” Wynn said.

The Panthers hope to have continued success in their second season in the ACC. In the conference, Pitt currently ranks first in assists, aces and kills per set with 14.13, 1.76 and 14.87, respectively, while sitting second in digs and both opponent and team hitting percentages. The Panthers average 15.37 digs with opponents hitting .129 while the team hits .273.

Pitt’s next match is Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. against the North Carolina Tar Heels.