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Panthers Upset by Cornell in Five Sets in Invite Opener

Kate Yeazel connected for a career-best 20 kills vs. Cornell.

Kate Yeazel connected for a career-best 20 kills vs. Cornell.

Sept. 20, 2013

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PITTSBURGH -- Three Panthers tallied season highs in kills, including Kate Yeazel with 20, but Pitt volleyball dropped the opening match of the Pitt Panther Invitational to Cornell, 3-2, on Friday morning at Fitzgerald Field House. Pitt will play again tonight against Rutgers at 7 p.m.

The 15-25, 25-22, 14-25, 25-23, 15-11 loss was the second straight in five sets for Pitt (7-4) following a similar decision to then-No. 22 Purdue a week ago at South Florida.

Pitt posted stronger offensive numbers than Cornell (3-4), but errors proved to be the difference. The Panthers hit .233 and totaled 60 kills in the match compared to a .145 average and 42 kills for the Big Red. However, Pitt also had more attack errors and finished with 13 service errors.

After the first set, it looked as if Pitt was going to make quick work of its opponent. The Panthers earned the 10-point win and never trailed in the frame. Cornell struggled to string together more than two points at a time. With Pitt leading by a set, it also had a significant advantage in attack percentage at .407 to .095.

Mechael Guess was responsible for a good portion of that early success having totaled five kills and hit .625. Jenna Potts, who ultimately finished with a career-best nine kills, also had four in the first set.

Pitt served four aces in the opening set, but it also had four service errors. That trend continued as the match wore on as the Panthers committed five miscues from the service line in the second set. A dip in their offensive production at the net also let Cornell in the door. As Pitt's attack percentage dropped to .138, Cornell's improved to .217, its highest of the match.

Yeazel proved to be one bright spot in the second set for Pitt. The junior improved her kills count to eight, and that number just continued to climb as the day wore on.

Pitt was looking at a potential two-set deficit midway through the third as Cornell pulled in front 13-11 at the end of a 6-1 run. The Panthers then went on a run of their own to reverse that score, and Yeazel played a major role in that effort.

Trailing by two, Pitt erupted on a 14-1 run to end the set. Yeazel posted five kills in a span of seven points during that stretch, putting the third out of reach for the Big Red. The run also included kills from Amanda Orchard, Jessica Wynn and Potts, and Delaney Clesen added an ace.

After winning the third set with a match-best .419 attack percentage - Cornell had dropped to .086 - Pitt struggled to maintain that forward motion for the rest of the contest.

Although the beginning of the fourth went Pitt's direction and the Panthers went up 10-7 at one point, Cornell benefited from its own lengthy run. With 11 of 13 points going to the Big Red, Cornell took an 18-12 advantage. Pitt never fully bounced back from that skid and Cornell evened the match with a two-point victory, 25-23.

Just as it had in earlier sets, Pitt took a quick lead in the fifth. That advantage grew to as many as three points, following a kill from Wynn for 7-4. Just as had also been the case in earlier sets, a run changed the momentum of the set. Cornell took four straight points to recover the lead. That was also the beginning of 7-2 run that sealed the deal for the Big Red. Cornell never gave up its lead after 10-9 and the visiting squad earned the upset.

Yeazel's 20 kills were the most by a Panther this year. It also topped her previous career best of 17 set at UConn earlier this season when she was named to the Huskies' All-Tournament Team. Guess added 16 kills, her highest total of the season and just one shy of her career best. The two Panthers were the only players in the match to reach double-digit kills, as Cornell's Breanna Wong connected for her team's best of nine kills.

Lindsey Zitzke led Pitt with 25 assists. She and Jenna Jacobson also registered two service aces apiece. As a team, Pitt totaled eight aces, six of which came in the first two sets.