Sept. 27, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Pitt volleyball opened its ACC history with a bang, defeating Clemson 3-0 in its inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference match at Fitzgerald Field House on Friday night. The Panthers are now 9-5 overall and 1-0 in league play.
"This is a newer team and we're a newer coaching staff, so we wanted to get started on a good note and we did that tonight," said head coach Dan Fisher after the match. "I'm really pleased with the focus of the girls."
Maria Genitsaridi led the Panthers with 10 kills, but Pitt also had some balance in its attack with Jessica Wynn tallying nine kills, Kate Yeazel eight and Monica Wignot seven. Three players also had three or more blocks, including Jenna Potts with a team-high five.
Both teams looked evenly matched in the beginning and it wasn't until the Panthers found themselves trailing 14-13 that they changed the tone and began to take control. The 14-13 Clemson lead was its first of the night. Pitt then claimed seven of the next eight points to pull back in front 20-15.
Pitt made relatively quick work of Clemson (6-6, 0-1 ACC) from that point on. After winning the first set by six, the Panthers took that momentum into the second for an even more convincing decision.
Defense proved to be a game changer more than once for Pitt. With the Panthers and Tigers separated by a single point in the first set, scrambling play that kept the point going swayed momentum in Pitt's favor and kicked off the run that led to the win. That streak also included back-to-back blocks with Potts in on the action on both.
After the first set alone, Pitt had 4.5 total team blocks while Clemson had none. The Tigers' hitting was also limited to .000 (8-8-29).
At the end of the night the team's blocking totals had evened out with Pitt leading 9.0 to Clemson's 7.0 total. Attack percentage was still heavily in the Panthers' favor, however, with Pitt closing out at .330 and Clemson hitting at a .136 pace.
In the second set, a triple block with Yeazel, Wynn and Potts - their second of the match - gave Pitt the last lead it would need at 5-4. Clemson threatened briefly, clawing to within one point at 8-7 before the Panthers offense took some control.
Pitt was able to create its own opportunities and enjoyed a 7-0 run that put it up 15-7. Included in that run were five kills from four different players and a service ace from Jenna Jacobson. It wasn't long before Pitt's lead was double digits and the Panthers had a two-set advantage.
While Pitt's defense had paid dividends early on, it lost its edge in the beginning of the third set. With Clemson coming by kills more easily, that kept the score close for some time as the frame saw 12 ties.
"We started out blocking really well and our serving was good," said Fisher. "There are a few more balls we need to pick up in the back row, so that will be a continued focus for us in the practice gym."
The last time the score was knotted up was at 17 all thanks to a Tigers service error. That opened the door for the Panthers who ended the third on a 9-2 run. Three consecutive kills from Yeazel took it to 20-17 and Wynn gave Pitt match point with back-to-back kills of her own.
Clemson fought off one of those match points, but couldn't it couldn't change the outcome. A kill attempt on the next point went wide and Pitt had the victory in its conference debut.
The win was also Pitt's first against Clemson, evening the series at 1-1. It was the teams' first meeting since 1997.
Pitt now turns its attention to Sunday's matchup with Georgia Tech. The Panthers-Yellow Jackets showdown is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will air live on ESPN3.