NEW ORLEANS - The University of Pittsburgh volleyball team (8-2) claimed its second-consecutive tournament title with a 3-1 victory (25-23, 25-21, 18-25, 25-19) against Mississippi State (4-5) in the championship match of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Classic inside the Hertz Center at Tulane University on Saturday.
The Panthers have now won seven matches in a row, their longest winning-streak since the 2009 campaign. Pitt defeated Sam Houston State, Tulane and MSU all by scores of 3-1 this weekend. Lindsey Zitzke was named Tournament MVP, while Margy Acton and Alexa Campbell were also named to the all-tournament team.
"I was really pleased on how we executed our game plan throughout the weekend," head coach Toby Rens said. "I was equally as pleased with some of the adjustments we made during the matches and how several people stepped up and provided something off the bench."
Monica Wignot had 14 kills to lead the Panthers against MSU while Jessica Boddy recorded her second-straight 12 kill performance. Zitzke had a double-double in every contest this weekend, and concluded her tournament with 46 assists and 10 digs against the Bulldogs. Acton and Delaney Clesen had 21 and 13 digs, respectively. The two reached double-digit digs in all three matches.
With the first set locked up at eight apiece, a block assist by Jasmine Dittrich and Zitzke sparked an 8-4 run which forced MSU into its first timeout of the frame. The Panthers played with the lead for the remainder of the set, and had set point up 24-20. A 3-0 MSU run ensued, but a kill by Boddy ended the set 25-23 in favor of the Panthers.
The Panthers hit a .436 in the set (17K - 0E - 39TA), led by the middles, Boddy and Dittrich, with five kills apiece.
MSU jumped out to an early 6-3 advantage in set two, but a kill by Zitzke gave Pitt its first lead at 9-8, which was followed by a kill from Monica Wignot which forced the Bulldogs into a timeout. Mississippi State climbed within one at 11-10, but Pitt scored four unanswered, including two aces by Zitzke, as MSU took its second and final timeout of the set with Pitt leading 15-10.
MSU would only be able to climb within two for the remainder of the set, and back-to-back kills by Dittrich and Alexa Campbell secured the 25-21 second victory. Dittrich had all nine of her kills in the first two sets.
The Bulldogs used a 4-0 spurt to take a 9-5 lead to open the third frame. MSU continued to control the set and a Pitt hitting error forced the Panthers to burn their second timeout of the stanza with the Bulldogs up 15-9. MSU stretched its largest lead to 10 at 24-14, but four straight Pitt points narrowed the gap. However, a kill by Lainey Wyman gave the Bulldogs the set (25-18) and forced a fourth set.
The Bulldogs held an early advantage in the fourth frame, but a 5-1 Pitt run evened the score at 11-11. The set would be tied five more times from that point on, but a kill from Wignot gave Pitt an 18-17 advantage and Pitt did not relinquish the lead. Pitt outscored MSU 8-2 down the stretch and went out for a 25-19 fourth set victory and secured the tournament championship.
For the match, Pitt had a hitting percentage of .230 and tallied eight total blocks. MSU was led by Lainey Wyman with 17 kills and Sarah Nielsen with 13.
The Panthers look to continue their momentum next weekend at the Ball State Invitational in Muncie, Ind. Pitt will take on the host Cardinals, Wright State and Wyoming.