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Volleyball looks to recapture winning ways in home tournament

By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

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After a successful tournament out West, despite losing their last game to Colorado, the Panthers return home and aim to recapture their winning ways this weekend when they host the Panther Classic. 

This marks the first home match for Pitt, after competing in tournaments in Ohio and Colorado to open up the season. The Panthers (5-1, 0-0 ACC) have their home debut Friday at 7 p.m. in the Fitzgerald Field House against cross-city rival Duquesne. On Saturday, Pitt will take on Norfolk State, its first match of a day-night doubleheader and wrap up its weekend against Niagara.

The Panthers won their first five matches this season without relinquishing a set. They finally were halted last weekend when they faced tournament host Colorado, losing 3-1.

Senior outside hitter Jessica Wynn and sophomore middle blocker Jenna Potts both were named to the All-Tournament Team and continue to lead the team in kills and blocks, respectively.

After watching film this week at practice, Wynn reflected on the team’s loss, calling it a game that the team “could have, and should have, won” and said that match was “a learning experience.”

“We need to learn from our loss against Colorado,” Potts echoed. “We were a little shaky because it was our first truly big game. We just need to bring a lot of confidence into this match [against Duquesne], and, if we’re confident, we’ll pull through.”

Wynn may be looking for revenge against the cross-city opponent. The senior recalled that it has been two years since Pitt last played the Dukes, with the match ending in a 3-0 Duquesne win.

“We’re most excited about that one,” Wynn said about the Panthers’ home opener. “A bunch of people from the city will probably show up, so both sides will really get up for that game and be energetic.”

Potts and Wynn, along with their teammates, according to assistant coach Lindsey Campbell, have been working on service errors along with high ball hitting to better prepare themselves.

“We’re taking what we learned as a team and a staff from Colorado and translating that into practice,” she said. “We’ve also been watching film on Duquesne to get our athletes prepared.”

 Duquesne

 After winning the Atlantic 10 and making the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Dukes (3-3) have had a streaky season thus far. Duquesne started off its season losing three straight matches but recovered this past weekend when it co-hosted and won three straight at the Duquesne/Robert Morris Invitational.

Besides getting the opportunity to play on her home court, junior setter Mary Henry had a memorable weekend, setting a new career high in assists. She recorded 59, five more than her previous record. With those 59 assists, Henry solely holds fourth place on Duquesne’s all-time assists list with 2,534. Freshman Molly Davet also set a career high with her double-double. The outside hitter tallied 17 digs and 17 kills. Davet’s overall performance helped her nab a spot on the All-Tournament Team, along with teammate Sammy Kline. The sophomore libero had 40 digs.

Duquesne also took home the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament honors, thanks to senior middle blocker Arielle Love, the reigning A-10 First-Team All-Conference member, who had a hitting percentage of .403.

 Norfolk State

 The Spartans come into the Panther Classic hoping for their big break. Norfolk (0-6) has yet to win a match this season, winning only three total games during that span.

Despite remaining winless, NSU has had a few bright spots coming from the new faces on the roster. In the Spartans’ first tournament at James Madison University, freshman right side/outside hitter Hope Forsythe made the All-Tournament Team. This past weekend, freshman teammate Clarke Tyler earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team at East Carolina.

Senior libero Noelle Eagles is looking to cement her place in the NSU record books. Eagles currently holds the top spot in NSU history and ranks 19th in the NCAA Division I in career digs with 1,427. Junior Darcy Moore also looks to continue her hot streak. The setter finds herself nationally ranked in the top 150 in assists per set, averaging 9.29. 

Niagara

 Niagara has seen mixed results so far in the season, but the team is coming off a win. The Purple Eagles (3-4) only had one loss in their own tournament and finished 2-1, despite being ranked as the lowest seed.

Niagara is also relying on some timely play by freshman players. Outside hitter Nicole Matheis and setter Alexis Gray have already been improving, with both players being named to the All-Tournament Team in their home tournament. Matheis and Gray are also rising in the ranks in their conference. Matheis has the top two kill performances — 22 and 21 — in the MAAC, while Gray holds the spot for the most assists by a MAAC player with 54.

Defensively, the Purple Eagles have shown that they can be strong. Senior libero Allison Reis has set a high for a MAAC player with 35 digs, while teammate Alex Stone, a sophomore middle blocker, has nine total blocks.

The Panthers will have home-court advantage when they take the court. Pitt will finally have full support of the University with student athletes, the Pitt Band and Pitt Cheerleaders. Campbell knows the boost that can give.

“It will be good to be in front of our home crowd and let the Pitt stands see how hard we will be working,” she said. “It’ll be a cool crowd. We’re really looking forward to it.”

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Volleyball looks to recapture winning ways in home tournament