Volleyball: Pitt splits weekend matches against UVA, Virginia Tech


The Pitt women’s volleyball team wrapped up its home stand this weekend by splitting the two matches. Pitt beat Virginia Tech in straight sets Friday evening at the Fitzgerald Field House, and then the Panthers lost a heartbreaking, five-set match Saturday evening against Virginia, 3-2.

“We didn’t start off as strong as we usually do,” junior opposite Mechael Guess said of Saturday’s loss . “We couldn’t get a pass and put it down like we usually do, but we are going to keep working and be able to get back on track.”

On Friday night, however, the Panthers (11-6, 3-1 ACC) came out swinging against Virginia Tech (13-4, 1-2 ACC), starting each set with a lead and defeating the Hokies, 25-19, 25-20 and 25-18.

Virginia Tech took an early lead in the first set, but an 8-1 run by Pitt that included three aces by freshman outside hitter Maria Genitsaridi helped Pitt gain a 14-10 advantage. The Hokies fought back and came within two points of Pitt, but they never took control of the game.

The second set followed in similar fashion, with Pitt leading early and Virginia Tech taking a brief lead. Seven kills by junior outside hitter Jessica Wynn in set two helped Pitt take a 25-20 victory.

“I feel like I just got really comfortable on the court after the first set,” Wynn said. “I definitely got the ball a lot more in the second set, so I just feel like it was an opportunity for me to heat up.”

Pitt made things exciting in the third set by trading points with Virginia Tech. After back-and-forth play led to a 16-16 tie, Pitt went on a huge run. The Panthers scored nine of the next 11 points and grabbed the set and match win.

Wynn finished the night with a match-high 16 kills and tallied nine digs. Junior setter Lindsey Zitzke recorded 25 assists while both Guess and junior opposite Kate Yeazel had 10 kills.

Saturday night proved to be a different story, though, as Virginia (9-7, 2-2 ACC) notched a five-set thrilling victory that Pitt had within its grasp.

“I think we could have finished faster, but we are going to grow from this experience,” junior defensive specialist Delaney Clesen said about the team’s first loss in the ACC.

Pitt made costly errors in the first set. 

Five of the first seven points for the Cavaliers came from Pitt errors, and it seemed as though the Panthers were outplayed. But after using both of their timeouts early, Pitt began to find its rhythm.

With the Panthers behind 11-4 after their second timeout, Pitt proceeded to outscore Virginia, 18-14, thanks in part to six kills from Guess. However, the Panthers’ comeback fell short, and they dropped the first set, 22-25.

Set two was reminiscent of set one for the Panthers, as they struggled early again but managed to remain within a few points of the Cavaliers. With the score 10-13 in favor of Virginia, Pitt hit its stride.

The Panthers clawed back to take a 16-14 lead, which caused Virginia to call a timeout. The timeout couldn’t slow the Panthers momentum, as Pitt scored the next three points and ultimately captured set two, 25-20.

Pitt carried its strong offensive play into the third set, sporting a .500 hitting percentage and never trailing in the set. The biggest lead came with Pitt up 18-9 and 20-11 before it finished off the Cavaliers with a 25-17 set win.

As strong as the Panthers played in the second and third sets, though, their play began to slip. Set four was a game of runs for both teams. Pitt was down 9-6 before going on an 8-0 run that was finished with a kill by senior outside hitter Monica Wignot. But then Virginia went on a run of its own, scoring 10 of the next 11 points  — including seven straight in one stretch of the rally — to take a 19-15 lead before sealing its second set win of the night with a 21-25 victory.

The struggle continued for Pitt as it headed into a decisive fifth set. Both teams fought for each score as points were traded. And with the score tied at seven, Virginia began pulling ahead. The Cavaliers scored eight of the next 12 points and captured the match with the fifth set win of 15-12.

Despite the loss, Wynn and Zitzke both posted double-doubles. Wynn had 10 kills and 11 digs while Zitzke recorded 20 assists and 10 digs. Guess also had a stellar night on the court, finishing with six blocks and a career-high 21 kills.

“It feels great to have 21 kills, but obviously we wanted to come out with a win,” Guess said. “We just have to work hard and get back in it next week.”