Women’s Volleyball: Panthers host Virginia, Virginia Tech over weekend

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Pitt women’s volleyball looks to continue its ACC success this weekend when the Panthers host two conference opponents at the Fitzgerald Field House. Pitt plays Friday at 7 p.m. against Virginia Tech and Saturday at 7 p.m. against the University of Virginia.

Pitt (10-5, 2-0 ACC) looks to extend its home winning streak to three after ousting ACC opponents Georgia Tech and Clemson. Pitt is currently one of five schools in the ACC that is still undefeated after playing its first two conference matches. The Panthers are joined at the top of the rankings by No. 11 North Carolina, No. 18 Florida State, Duke and Miami.

The last time the Panthers started their conference season off with a 2-0 record was in 2009.

“We are really excited,” junior setter Lindsey Zitzke said of Pitt’s start in the new conference. “I think we just keep taking it from here. We didn’t know what to really expect coming into the ACC, and we are really happy with the results right now.”

When the Panthers take the court Friday night, they will face a Virginia Tech squad that they have not faced in a decade. In five prior matches, Pitt has a 3-2 advantage overall, but the Hokies obtained a three-set win in 2003 — the last meeting between the two teams. Pitt is also undefeated at home after two matches against the Hokies.

The Hokies (13-3,1-1 ACC) are coming in as a strong opponent for the Panthers, after splitting their first two matches of conference play. The Hokies won 3-1 against Wake Forest and lost 3-0 to Duke.

The loss to Duke marks the the first group of three straight set losses that the Hokies have endured all season. In their two other losses — versus then-No. 14 Michigan State and Louisville — the Hokies lost both matches by a score of 3-2.

The Panthers will need to account for Virginia Tech senior middle blocker Victoria Hamsher, who has had a successful season with 126 kills and 31 total blocks. Hamsher was also voted to the preseason All-ACC Team.

“Virginia Tech is going to be the best team we have seen in a couple weeks,” Pitt head coach Dan Fisher said. “We saw them in the spring but we’re going to expect them to be really tough.”

Pitt’s second and final match of the weekend comes against Virginia, which Pitt also has not faced at home in over a decade. However, Pitt holds a 1-1 record at home versus Virginia.

The Cavaliers (8-6, 1-1 ACC) have had ups and downs throughout the season, starting off strong by winning their first three matches before dropping five of the next six. Virginia then went on another three-match winning streak before starting ACC play, at which time the team went 1-1.

Virginia lost 3-0 at Duke in their first ACC match but also won 3-0 at Wake Forest. The Cavaliers’ win at Wake Forest was Virginia’s first away win all season and their first conference win on the road in almost two years.

The players to watch out for on the Cavalier’s squad are junior setter/right-side hitter Tori Janowski and freshman outside hitter Haley Kole. In the last match versus Wake Forest, Janowski served four aces and recorded a double-double with 14 kills and 11 digs. Kole hit for .300 in the same match and tallied 12 kills.

The Panthers are 6-1 in three-set matches with their lone loss on Aug. 31 against Idaho State. Pitt is also 8-0 when it outblocks an opponent, and the team has served more aces than its opponent in 10 of 15 matches. The Panthers have 97 service aces so far this season, and their season best so far was 13 against South Florida on Sept. 13. 

Freshman outside hitter Maria Genitsaridi looks to remain a key player for the Panthers. In the match versus Clemson, Genitsaridi led the team with 10 kills and a hitting percentage of .562.

Meanwhile, junior opposite Kate Yeazel was once again named the Pitt Athlete of the Week. This is the second time this season that Yeazel has achieved this honor. She tallied 22 kills and hit .349 in the two matches against Clemson and Georgia Tech. In the Georgia Tech game alone, Yeazel had 14 kills and an incredible attack percentage of .545.

As Fisher said, the competition is tough this weekend, and Yeazel and the upstart Panthers are sure to be tested.

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