VILLANOVA, Pa. - In a must-win situation, the University of Pittsburgh volleyball team (17-13, 7-8) punched its ticket to the Big East tournament with a four set victory at Villanova (11-19, 5-10) on Sunday afternoon (23-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-19) at the Jake Nevin Field House.
The Panthers played their way into the tournament by winning three of their final four league matches. Pitt will be the seven-seed in next week's championship tournament and will play host Marquette in the 2 vs. 7 matchup.
Pitt recorded a season-high 16 total blocks, led by Monica Wignot with a team-best eight, followed by Jasmine Dittrich with seven and Alexa Campbell with a career-high six. Campbell also tallied a match-high 13 kills, while Dittrich notched 11. Jessica Wynn and Mechael Guess both had 10 spikes. Delaney Clesen led the team with a career-best 22 digs, and Margy Acton had 18. Campbell was the only player to record a double-double as she added 11 digs to her stat line.
Pittsburgh weathered the early Wildcats storm that saw Villanova score the first five points of the match, and tied the opening set at 10-10 on block assist by Kate Yeazel and Dittrich. Pitt then took a 14-13 advantage on a Villanova hitting error and was in front until the Wildcats tied the set at 22. Villanova scored five of the final six points and a Pitt hitting error gave Villanova set one, 25-23.
A Villanova service ace capped off a 4-0 Wildcats run in the beginning of the second set which forced the Panthers into a timeout down 10-6. Out of the timeout, Pitt erupted on a 13-1 run which gave the Panthers control of the set at 19-11. A block by Campbell and Dittrich concluded the set 25-19 in favor of Pittsburgh and evened the match at 1-1 heading into the locker room. Campbell paced the Panthers with five kills and two blocks in the frame.
The Wildcats scored the first two points of the third set, but Pitt scored seven of the next nine points, and Campbell's service ace forced Villanova into a timeout with the Panthers in front 7-4. Delaney Clesen's ace gave Pitt its largest advantage of the set at 14-10, but Villanova took the lead back, 18-17, after a Pitt ball handling error. Dittrich however, took over down the stretch and helped Pitt close the set on an 8-3 run with two kills and two blocks to give Pitt a 25-20 third set decision.
Wignot got Pitt off to a quick start with three consecutive blocks as the Panthers raced out to a 5-1 lead in set four. Villanova tied the set at seven, but the Panthers regained the lead with the next point and did not relinquish it. The Panthers lead grew to as much as 10 (20-10) and a Villanova service error ended the set and gave Pitt the 3-1 victory.
The Panthers hit .248 for the match (57K - 20E - 149TA), and held the Wildcats to a .109 clip (45K - 28E - 156TA). Pitt also avenged a loss to Villanova from earlier in the season. Head Coach Toby Rens has now taken Pitt to the Big East Tournament in each of his first five season as coach of the Panthers. He is the first coach in program history to accomplish that feat.
The Big East Tournament will run from Nov. 16-18 at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee, Wis. Pitt and Marquette will sqaure off in the final match of the quarterfinals on Friday night at 7 p.m.