Sept. 20, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Pitt volleyball rebounded from a five-set loss in the day's opener to take a 3-1 win over Rutgers at the Pitt Panther Invitational on Friday night at Fitzgerald Field House. Jessica Wynn had a breakout performance to lead a group of three Panthers with double-digit kills and two with 20-plus digs totals.
Pitt (8-4) came back from a set down to ultimately take the four-set decision over Rutgers (3-10) 26-28, 25-17, 25-15, 25-11. The Panthers are now 2-1 in four-set matches this season.
Pitt found itself in a position to play catch-up in both the first and second sets, but each frame ended differently. After trailing 20-13 late in the first frame and looking almost certain that Rutgers was going to take the lead in the set count, the Panthers made a push to tie it up. Pitt went on a 10-3 run to knot the score at 23 apiece. The score was again tied at 24, 25 and 26 points apiece.
That 26-26 score came on a kill from Jessica Wynn. The junior went on to post her third double-double of the year on the first point of the third frame. However, it was a close call that went down as an attack error for Wynn that gave Rutgers the first set 28-26.
Wynn finished her night with a season-best 18 kills and a career-high 23 digs. She hit .333 (18-6-36) and also chipped in two service aces and two blocks before the night's final point.
"I was really pleased with my defensive game tonight and I have to hand that over to my coaches," Wynn said after the match. "They really gave us a thorough scouting report so we knew their tendencies and I knew what to look for on defense."
The second set looked as if it were going to go down the same path with an early but small lead for the Panthers being eliminated on a Scarlet Knights run. Pitt never let momentum slip away completely, however, and stuck close enough to keep it interesting.
Pitt pulled within one at 10-9 before Rutgers extended that lead with four straight points. It then became the Panthers' turn for a run and that proved to be the difference maker. After getting the score down to 17-15 in favor of the Rutgers, Pitt claimed the final 10 points of the set for the win.
That run included contributions from several Panthers. Jessica Boddy and Monica Wignot, playing in her first match since the season's opening weekend in August teamed up for a pair of blocks. Wignot threw in a couple of kills as well, as did Wynn.
Although it did not show up on the score sheet, Jenna Jacobson also played a key role in the run as she kept Rutgers on its toes with her serving. The junior helped maintain control from the backline by serving out the set's final nine points.
The momentum had officially swung in Pitt's favor. The Panthers' attack percentage started to climb, going from .143 in the first to .250 in the second and eventually .333 in the third, which did not require any comeback effort.
Pitt led from the start in the third. Whereas Rutgers had used some key runs early in the match to keep it close, and even hold a scoring advantage, the Scarlet Knights were unable to string together more than two consecutive points in the third. In what seemed like no time, the Panthers went up by double digits. A block from Kate Yeazel and Jenna Potts made it 16-7 and a handful of errors from Rutgers soon made it 19-8.
Three Panthers tallied at least four kills in the third set. Wynn chipped in five, hitting .500, and added nine digs in that frame.
The Panthers were then running on cruise control and made it smoothly through the fourth as well. A double-digit lead came to Pitt quickly, 15-5. It then improved to 16-5 on back-to-back aces off of Wynn's arm. Wignot and Yeazel also found their spots and moved their kills totals into double figures as the Scarlet Knights struggled to find answers. As a team, Pitt hit .429 in the fourth compared to .000 for Rutgers.
In the end, Yeazel added 11 kills and Wignot had 10 to follow Wynn's 23. Lindsey Zitzke tallied 27 assists.
While Pitt put up several impressive offensive numbers, its defense could hardly be ignored either. Clesen matched the contest's high with 23 digs. The Panthers also totaled 13.0 team blocks, including seven from Boddy, six from Potts and three each from Wignot and Yeazel.
In the day's earlier matches, Cornell defeated Pitt in five sets. Morehead State also defeated Rutgers 3-0 and Cornell 3-1.
Play at the Pitt Panther Invitational continues tomorrow at 10 a.m. with a meeting between Rutgers and Cornell. Pitt and Morehead State will play in the finale at 1 p.m.
"I feel like we were pretty sick of playing low-level volleyball," Wynn said of her team's earlier performance before beating Rutgers. "We're such a good team and we have a lot to contribute this season. I feel like the comeback set the tone for the rest of the weekend and coming out tomorrow against Morehead State."
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