Sept. 21, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Mechael Guess led Pitt volleyball with 13 kills and Delaney Clesen added a career-best 27 digs, but the effort could not keep the Panthers from another five-set loss to Morehead State in the final match of the Pitt Panther Invitational at Fitzgerald Field House on Saturday afternoon. The Panthers went 1-2 in their home tournament and the final weekend before the start of their inaugural ACC season.
The score flip-flopped throughout the match and it was Morehead State (9-4) that came out on top in the end by a score of 22-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-22, 15-13. Pitt's record dropped to 8-5 on the year.
Guess and Clesen were named to the All-Tournament Team for their success. Joining them on the squad were Courtney Smith, Leslie Schellhaas and Laura McDermott from Morehead State, Breanna Wong and Rachel D'Epagnier from Cornell and Ali Schroeter from Rutgers.
Neither team was particularly sharp, leaving the match up for grabs. Pitt hit .083 in the first set, which still earned it the win as Morehead State posted a -.028 percentage. The second was more of the same struggles with the Panthers coming in at .094 and Morehead State at .118. At the end of the five sets, Pitts' hitting stood at just .092 while Morehead State finished at a .104 pace.
With each of the first two sets filled with back-and-forth play and a high number of ties, the win went to whichever team took the last punch. Neither team earned a lead of more than four points, and after two frames the match had already seen the score knotted up 24 times.
The first set went Pitt's direction thanks to a 5-0 run, the largest by either team, to end the frame. That took the Panthers from a 22-20 deficit to the ultimate 25-22 lead. During that stretch, Pitt got some key production from KeKe Irby and Kate Yeazel who combined for two blocks and a kill. Morehead State also chipped in a pair of errors.
The second set went to Morehead State after it put together a similar finish. Six of the final seven points went to the Eagles. The teams had battled through 11 ties, the last at 22-22. That was in the middle of Morehead State's run, however, and although Maria Genitsaridi tipped in an attack for the kill and save a set point, the Eagles closed it out with a kill.
Morehead State's defense hand a hand in the second set as the Eagles' tallied four total team blocks. The Panthers did not register a block in that frame, leaving a lopsided 9.0 to 3.0 advantage in rejections for the match to that point.
That trend started to reverse itself in the third, which turned out to be a more straightforward set than the previous two. Morehead State jumped out to a 7-2 lead and held onto that advantage for nearly the entire frame.
Again it was a late push from the Panthers that was the difference maker. Four straight points for Pitt, the last of which came on a block assist from Guess and Monica Wignot evened the score at 15-15.
Morehead State did not give up its lead just yet, claiming the next two points, but Pitt answered yet again. Another set of four consecutive points for Pitt put it in front 19-17. It was the Panthers' first scoring advantage of the set and they did not let it go to waste. The lead continued to grow bit by bit until Pitt had taken a 2-1 set lead and headed to an extended match for the third consecutive outing.
In Pitt's late push that in the end combined for a 14-5 run at the end of the third included three kills from Wignot and one apiece from four other players. Guess also teamed up for three block assists, while Irby added a solo. After totaling three team blocks in the first two sets, the Panthers registered five in the third frame alone.
Just as the first and second sets showed a lot of similarities, the fourth set began to play out the same as the third. And just like the first and second sets, the third and fourth frames turned out differently in the end.
After seeing its lead slip away in the third, Morehead State was able to hang on to its early advantage on the next attempt. Pitt trailed throughout only getting as close as a tie at 10-10.
That sent Pitt to five sets for the second time in three matches at its home tournament. Just as was the case against Cornell on Friday, the Panthers could not hang on.
Pitt jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the must-win frame, but was quickly erased when Morehead State rallied for the next seven points. Trailing 9-5, the Panthers regained control and were able to tie the score at 9-9 thanks to an ace from Genitsaridi and back-to-back blocks.
The momentum wasn't done swinging, however. Morehead State answered with five of the next seven points, giving them match point at 14-11. A block assist for the Panthers and a double hit called on the Eagles kept the match going, but Pitt ran out of time, dropping their third consecutive five-set match.
In three matches at the Pitt Panther Invitational, Pitt went to five sets against Cornell and Morehead State and four sets opposite Rutgers. Over the course of the season, eight of Pitt's 13 matches have gone four or more sets.
"Any time we're playing in tight matches, it's a chance to grow," said head coach Dan Fisher. "We've played in a few five-set matches, and we've come out on top in a few and we've lost a few. I'm a competitive person and I enjoy being in close matches. We do need to get better at them and being the ones' that come out on top."
Joining Guess with double-figure kills was Yeazel with 10. Clesen's 27 digs was the most of her career, topping her previous personal best of 23 tied last night against Rutgers. Jessica Wynn just missed a second straight double-double with nine kills and 11 digs. Also defensively, Irby totaled a career-best seven blocks. Yeazel also finished with seven rejections, while Wignot added six and Guess five.
Morehead State's Courtney Smith led all players with 17 kills. She also had 18 digs as one of four Eagles in double figures.
In the team stats, Morehead State finished with 17.0 total blocks, just ahead of Pitt's 15.0.
The next time Pitt takes to the court will be for the start of its ACC campaign. The Panthers host Clemson at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27, followed by Georgia Tech at 2 p.m. on Sept. 29. The meeting with Georgia Tech can be seen on ESPN3.