Sept. 13, 2013
TAMPA -- Pitt volleyball rallied at the perfect times in a rollercoaster match against South Florida, winning in five sets at the Sun Dome on Friday night. Four Panthers finished with double-digit kills and freshman Maria Genitsaridi nabbed her second consecutive double-double to improve Pitt's record to 6-2 on the year.
Pitt dropped the first set but a never-say-die effort ultimately gave it the 20-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-13, 15-8 win in the first match of the USF Invitational.
Kate Yeazel and Jessica Wynn shared the match high in kills with 15 apiece. They were joined in double figures by Mechael Guess with 12 kills and Genitsaridi with 10. Genitsaridi put together one of the best all-around efforts of the night, adding 11 digs and serving six aces.
Pitt is now 2-0 in five-set matches this season. Both have come against former Big East conference foes. The Panthers defeated UConn in five sets just last Saturday, a match in which Genitsaridi posted her first career double-double.
On Friday night, Pitt needed some major runs more than once to keep it in the hunt. In the first set, it was a 6-2 streak that took them from four down to tying the score at 11-11. The Panthers were unable to take a lead despite keeping it within a pair of points for quite some time and soon after found themselves trailing by a set.
The second set it was a run that gave Pitt 16 of 20 points for a comeback, while in the fourth it was a 10-0 streak that gave the Panthers their most convincing set victory of the young season.
The second frame was a different story. After USF's push at the end of the first that gave it the five-point decision, the Bulls charged out to a quick 7-1 advantage in the second. Pitt used its second and final timeout of the set after finding itself in an 11-4 hole. One more point went the Bulls' way and then the momentum went decidedly in the Panthers' favor.
An attack error from USF gave Pitt the serve and it hung on to it. Wynn connected for back-to-back kills and then consecutive block assists with Jessica Boddy involved in each one kept things rolling. By the time USF started to right itself, Pitt had enjoyed a 16-4 run. The Bulls' 12-4 lead was gone and the Panthers were in front 20-16 on a Mechael Guess kill.
USF would tie the second set at 22, but Pitt closed the deal with three straight points and evened the match with its comeback.
After hitting .188 in the first set, Pitt improved to .243 in the second. USF saw a bigger change and not in the direction it liked, dropping from a .342 to a .105 pace.
Helping Pitt in its improvement was Wynn who finished with six kills in the second set alone. At that point the junior was already in double figures with 10 of her team's 29 kills.
Pitt's hitters went quiet in the third and it showed in more ways than one. After her big performance in the previous set, Wynn failed to register a kill and the Panthers hit in the negatives as a team, coming it at -.026.
It was a set to forget and Pitt seemed to do just that. Short-term memory turned into its best friend as it won the fourth frame without much of a challenge. The Panthers cruised in a 10-0 run taking what could have been a relatively close set and turning into a quick frame.
Maria Genitsaridi served three aces during that streak alone, keeping control firmly in Pitt's hands. Despite USF ticking off four straight points, the Bulls were already trailing 23-8 at that juncture. A double hit for USF was what ended it for the 25-13 decision.
The Bulls never recovered after that. Pitt went through the fifth smoothly. Genitsaridi again had a hand in the early effort, serving a pair of aces to help give the Panthers the quick 3-0 lead. That advantage continued to grow throughout much of play.
Each of Genitsaridi's six aces came in the final two sets. The six aces are the most by a Panther this fall.
The only true threat from USF came after it was a bit too late. The Bulls won three straight points to draw within 12-6 and they saved two match points, but the Pitt lead was never smaller than six. A USF attack error on the final ball sailed long and Pitt came away the ultimate winner in the up and down battle.
After its negative hitting percentage in the third, Pitt hit .346 in the fourth set and .250 in the fifth. USF came in at a sub-.200 in each of the last two frames.
In addition to Pitt's big hitters, setters also put up some nice numbers. Lindsey Zitzke totaled 27 assists and 10 digs while Jenna Jacobson added 21 assists. Defensively Delaney Clesen also totaled a season-high 22 digs. Yeazel and Boddy each added four blocks.
Pitt will be busy tomorrow starting off with an 11 a.m. meeting with No. 22 Purdue. The Panthers will then close out the tournament against Florida Atlantic at 4:30 p.m.