CHICAGO - Trailing 10-6 in the fifth and final set, the University of Pittsburgh volleyball team (14-12, 5-7) outscored DePaul 9-3 down the stretch to defeat the Blue Demons (8-16, 3-8) in five sets (25-17, 18-25, 25-7, 17-25, 15-13) in dramatic fashion on Sunday afternoon at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
Monica Wignot had a match-high 15 kills, a career-high 11 blocks and four service aces to lead the Panthers. Mechael Guess had a season-best 13 kills and Jessica Wynn reached double-digits with 10. Lindsey Zitzke notched 38 assists and Margy Acton led the defense as she had 23 digs for the second time this season. DePaul also had three players reach double-digit kills, led by Vesela Zapryanova who matched Wignot with 15 kills.
"This was a huge conference road win for us," head coach Toby Rens said. "I thought we put three very good sets together. We were a little up and down in the other two. The play of Monica Wignot and Mechael Guess was exceptional for us. They were aggressive offensively, and blocking wise they did some great things too. They were clutch today and they came through for us in key situations."
After the Blue Demons held a lead for the early part of the opening set, the Panthers erupted for a 10-0 run to seize control of the frame. A service ace by Wignot gave the Panthers their first lead of the set at 12-11, and Mechael Guess followed that up with her fourth kill to put Pitt ahead by two as DePaul called a timeout.
The run continued as Pitt scored the next five points and surged ahead 18-11, forcing DePaul into using its second timeout of the set. A solo block by Wignot ended the set 25-17 in favor of the Panthers. Guess led the team with five kills, while Jasmine Dittrich had four spikes in the set. Wignot had three kills and three blocks in the opening frame.
Pitt scored the first three points of the second set, and held its lead until a Panthers hitting error gave the Blue Demons a 14-13 advantage. DePaul stretched its lead to four at 20-16 after a service ace, forcing Pitt into using its last timeout. After another DePaul point, back-to-back blocks by Dittrich and Wignot brought the Panthers within three at 21-18, but DePaul scored the final four points to even the match at 1-1 heading into intermission.
Like in set two, the Panthers scored the first three points to open the third set, this time however, there would be no DePaul comeback as the Panthers rolled to a 25-7 victory. Pitt tallied seven service aces in the third set alone and had a .375 hitting clip (10K - 1E - 24TA).
The two teams went back and forth to open the fourth frame, but three straight Blue Demon points forced Pittsburgh into a timeout with DePaul leading 15-12. The Blue Demons stretched their lead to 19-14 on a Pitt hitting error and eventually forced a fifth and deciding set with a 25-17 fourth set victory.
DePaul's Vesela Zapryanova started off the final set with three-consecutive service aces and helped the Blue Demons grab a 7-3 advantage. With DePaul leading 10-6, the Panthers began their furious comeback. Two kills by Guess, along with two DePaul hitting errors and a service error knotted the frame at 11. The set would then be tied at 12 and 13, but a DePaul miscommunication followed by a kill from Wynn gave the Panthers the five set victory.
"I loved our fight today," Rens continued. "I think we were a little frustrated heading into the fifth set. DePaul came out aggressive in the fifth set, but I love how we responded."
Pittsburgh is now 2-0 in five set matches this season, with the other victory coming at Rutgers. Pitt tallied a season-best 15 blocks and hit a .212 on the afternoon (57K - 24E - 156TA). DePaul had a .156 hitting percentage (48K - 24E - 154TA).
Pittsburgh is back in action next weekend when the Panthers host a critical match with major post-season implications against USF next Saturday, Nov. 3 at Fitzgerald Field House. First serve is set for 2 p.m.