Oct. 25, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Three Panthers finished with double-figure kills and Jenna Jacobson added a double-double, but Pitt volleyball could not escape a late rally and dropped a five-set decision to N.C. State at Reynolds Coliseum on Friday night.
The meeting between Pitt (12-10, 4-5 ACC) and N.C. State (16-5, 7-2 ACC) was like five different matches rolled into one. The bout featured close sets claimed by different teams, runaways for each and a real nail-biter of a finale that left everyone's nerves frayed. In the end it went to N.C. State 28-26, 20-25, 25-16, 15-25, 18-16.
After the Panthers evened the match for a second time with a fourth-set win, emotions ran high as play headed into a fifth. The two squads met each other blow for blow as neither was able to go up by more than two points until the Wolfpack pulled in front 12-10.
The fifth set alone saw 14 ties, more than any other frame. After N.C. State took the two-point lead, Pitt called a timeout and was able to reverse any damage. A service error from the Pack gave one point back to the Panthers and a block assist from Jenna Potts and Monica Wignot tied it at 12-12.
Pitt was not in the clear yet, however. N.C. State had match point at 14-12 and 15-14. The Panthers saved each one and even claimed a match point of their own on another block thanks to Amanda Orchard and KeKe Irby.
That made it 16-15, but the Wolfpack was the first team to string together three consecutive points and it turned out to be the biggest run of a run-filled night. Back-to-back errors from the Panthers sealed the deal and gave N.C. State the 18-16 decision in the fifth.
Pitt led N.C. State in blocks for the night 18.0-12.0. Potts led all players with 10 (1-9) on the night, while Irby added seven. Offensively, Wignot led the Panthers with 14 kills. Mechael Guess added 13 and Kate Yeazel finished with 10. Jacobson tallied her second consecutive double-double with 21 assists and 13 digs, but it was Lindsey Zitzke with the assists lead at 30 and Delaney Clesen with the team's top digs total at 21.
After splitting the first two sets, the teams continued to go toe-to-toe as the third set got underway. Potts' kill made it 7-6 and there were three more ties after that. The score was knotted up seven times in that third frame, but they were all early. The real story came from the N.C. State side of the net. The Wolfpack tallied 14 of the last 18 points, making it the most lopsided decision of the night.
Pitt hit just .121 in the third set while N.C. State went from .111 in the second to .342 in the third.
Yet another reversal in momentum gave the fourth set to the Panthers easily. Just as had been the case earlier in the night, a run in the first half of play gave momentum to Pitt that allowed them to take the win. After N.C. State got as close as 7-5, Pitt strung together five consecutive points for some breathing room.
The Wolfpack never really got their teeth into the set and it ended nearly as quickly as it started. Pitt hit .389 in the fourth set and limited N.C. State to .065, their lowest percentage to that point.
The only time the Wolfpack struggled more with their efficiency in the match came in the fifth when they hit .029. Pitt, however, closed it out at -.035 in the fifth. The Panthers hit .176 overall on the night, topping the Wolfpack's .157.
It would have been difficult to pick a winner at any time during the match until the final point. Just as a different team dominated in each the third and fourth sets, the same happened earlier in the night.
Pitt took early leads in each of the first two sets, but the first and second both ended very differently. Play in the opening frame remained close throughout with the Panthers taking the biggest lead of the set for either team at 20-16. They never trailed by more than two points, but those two turned out to be big ones.
The first set saw 11 ties and six lead changes. The eighth tie came at 21-21 as Pitt benefited from an N.C. State service error. That only helped the Panthers recover briefly from a run that had given the Wolfpack five straight points and, at 21-10, their first lead since 11-10.
N.C. State's lead at 23-21 was reduced slightly with a block from Jessica Wynn and Irby and kicked off a stretch where Pitt took four of five points. That put the Panthers back in front 25-24 again with some defensive help. That stretch also included a solo block from Wignot and another block assist from Yeazel and Potts.
With both teams battling, the final word came from N.C. State. The Wolfpack closed out the first frame with four of the last five points, all of them on kills, and gave them the one-set lead at 28-26.
After a finish like that, it would have been easy for Pitt to feel deflated entering the second set. Fortunately for the Panthers, the opposite happened. After hitting .103 in the first, Pitt rebounded for a .343 attack percentage in the second against an N.C. State squad that entered the match leading the ACC in opponent hitting percentage (.150).
After falling behind briefly 3-1, Pitt claimed 10 of the next 12 points. The Panthers got the work done offensively and defensively during that run. Yeazel and Wignot both tallied three kills, while Potts had a hand in three blocks.
That six-point advantage at 11-5 and then later a 20-13 lead gave the Panthers just enough of a cushion to hang on even when the set got close again down the stretch. The Wolfpack chipped away just enough to keep things interesting and drew within three at 23-20 as Pitt gave them a point on a service error. A block assist then gave the Panthers set point and Wynn evened the match with a kill to turn it into a best-of-three match.
That best-of-three match proved to be more exciting than most would have expected. The bout in front of 804 fans lasted more than two hours.
Leading the way for N.C. State was Dariyan Hopper with 22 kills. Tanna Aljoe finished with 43 assists.
Pitt will have little time to recover from its tough night as it takes on No. 14 North Carolina at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Carmichael Arena.
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