Oct. 4, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Pitt volleyball improved its ACC start to 3-0 with a straight-sets win over Virginia Tech at Fitzgerald Field House on Friday night. It was the third straight three-set victory for the Panthers, which won 25-19, 25-20, 25-18.
With the conference start that also includes 3-0 wins over Clemson and Georgia Tech last week, Pitt is now 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 2008. When the Panthers take on Virginia tomorrow, they will be looking for their first start of four straight wins or more since the 2004 season when it opened Big East play 6-0.
Pitt (11-5, 3-0 ACC) topped Virginia Tech (13-4, 1-2 ACC) in nearly every category on Friday. The Panthers closed out the night hitting .280, including a match-best .400 attack percentage in the third set. The Hokies closed out at .172. Pitt also totaled six service aces as a team, while Virginia Tech finished with zero.
"We won the serve-pass battle," said head coach Dan Fisher after the match. "I thought we served enough to keep them off the net and make it so they had to set the outsides a lot. And that took them out of their game plan a little bit."
Pitt took early leads in each set, but Virginia Tech was unwilling to go away. In the first and second, the Hokies were able to pull in front if only for a brief time.
In the opening frame, a couple of Panther errors gave the Hokies the scoring advantage that grew to 9-6. That lead never got any bigger and turned out to be the largest of the night for Virginia Tech. Whatever momentum it hoped to be gaining was quashed by Pitt, which responded with an 8-1 run. That gave the Panthers their own lead at 15-10.
Included in that Pitt run were three consecutive aces from Maria Genitsaridi. Each ace came in a different fashion as the first found its way to the deep corner and caught the Virginia Tech defense watching. The second went off a back row player's arms and over the bench and the third clipped the net and dropped over.
Genitsaridi leads Pitt with 24 aces this season. The freshman's performance at the service line should also give her a boost in the ACC rankings as she entered Friday's match ranked fifth in aces.
By the time Pitt wrapped up its run, it led 15-10 and had a big enough cushion to walk away with the six-point decision in the first.
The second set followed a similar trend, although it took the Hokies a bit longer to really make the Panthers sweat. Mechael Guess tallied back-to-back kills for 9-6. It was then Virginia Tech's turn to respond as it took six of the next eight points and the lead at 12-11.
That one-point lead was the only one the Hokies held. Another 6-2 run, this one in favor of Pitt, again took the Panthers advantage on the scoreboard up to three points. Virginia Tech never completely righted itself.
Wynn, who totaled one kill in the first set, added seven in the second set alone. She ultimately finished the night with a match-high 16 kills and hit .448.
Although Wynn's play helped Pitt to a 5-2 start in the third, the real story in the final frame was a series of trading points. Pitt held the lead almost the entire way with the exception of a 16-16 tie, but Virginia Tech was never more than three points away.
The real difference came down the stretch. After being knotted up at 16 all, Pitt erupted for nine of the next 11 points. That gave the match to the Panthers, who have yet to drop a set in ACC play. During that final run, Pitt got some help from some Virginia Tech errors, but it also produced its own offense with three kills from Wynn, two more from Kate Yeazel and a service ace from Clesen. Not to be outdone, Yeazel, Jenna Potts and Genitsaridi shored up the defense with a block as well.
"We never quit," said Fisher. "That's something we preach every day in the practice gym. It was good to get a good win against a really quality opponent. I'm very pleased with the effort."
In the end, blocking was the only stat where Virginia Tech had the advantage. The Hokies finished with 11.0 total team blocks compared to 10.0 for the Panthers. Leading the way for Pitt was Yeazel with career-high-tying seven and Wignot with five. Three Hokies finished with five blocks or more.
Wynn just missed the double-double with 16 kills and nine digs on the night. Yeazel and Guess added 10 kills apiece, making them the only three players in the match to hit double figures. Lindsey Zitzke tallied 25 assists.
Pitt will continue its run through the ACC tomorrow at 7 p.m. when it entertains Virginia at Fitzgerald Field House. The Panthers will also host its Dig Pink event to support the fight against breast cancer. Fans are encouraged to wear pink to show their support as well.