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The Panthers take on a pair of tough opponents in North Carolina this weekend, including the No. 14 Tar Heels.

Oct. 22, 2013

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PITTSBURGH -- Pitt volleyball will have a tough series of tests when it hits the road again this week. The Panthers face N.C. State at 7 p.m. on Friday in Raleigh, N.C., and No. 14 North Carolina at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Chapel Hill. Both opponents rank in the top four of the ACC standings with the Tar Heels entering the weekend with just a single loss this fall.

Pitt has a short history with both of this weekend's opponents. The Panthers have a 3-0 advantage in the series with the Wolfpack, but the two squads have not met since 1983. The series with the Tar Heels was only recently renewed, but even they haven't played since 2004. Pitt leads in that series as well, 8-3.

It has been three decades since Pitt and N.C. State last squared off. Pitt took the win in each of those matches beginning in 1979 (2-1), followed by bouts in 1982 (3-0) and 1983 (3-2). Of those matches, only one played out in Raleigh - the 1982 straight-sets victory for the Panthers.

Pitt and North Carolina last played in 2004, and the Panthers took a four-set victory (30-27, 35-27, 30-24, 30-26). Gini Ullery finished with 21 kills and 11 digs for Pitt, while Diana Andreyko totaled 18 kills and 11 digs. Both teams put up solid blocking numbers with 12 or better apiece.

Most of Pitt and North Carolina's meetings have come at neutral sites. Pitt is 5-2 against the Tar Heels on a neutral court, 1-0 at home and 2-1 in Chapel Hill. The last time they played on UNC's turf was in 2000. Things didn't go so well for the Panthers in that match with North Carolina winning 15-7, 16-14, 15-6.

Pitt is 5-2 in straight-sets matches against North Carolina. The two teams have never gone to five sets against each other. The series began in 1978.

Just a dozen regular-season matches remain on Pitt's 2013 schedule. Four of those will be at home when the Panthers host Wake Forest in their first-ever meeting and Duke in early November, followed by Maryland and N.C. State at the end of the month. The slate also includes road rematches with Syracuse and Virginia, as well as a trip to South Bend to visit old Big East rival Notre Dame.

Pitt's last four victories have all come in three sets. That includes last Friday's victory over Boston College as well as Clemson, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. The Panthers are 8-3 in straight-sets matches this fall and 4-6 in matches that go four sets or longer.

Team hitting efficiency has proven to be a major factor in wins and losses this season. Pitt is 12-2 when it hits .200 or better as a squad - the losses came against Cornell (.233) and Florida State (.290) - but just 1-7 when it hits at a sub-.200 pace (with a win over South Florida (.183)).

Through 13 non-conference matches, Lindsey Zitzke served 15 aces. In just eight ACC contests, the junior has already totaled 16 aces and leads the conference with 0.59/set. Her conference highs include four aces against Georgia Tech and Virginia.

Jenna Jacobson registered her second double-double of the season against Syracuse on Sunday, totaling 21 assists and a career-high 11 digs. Her first double-double came in Pitt's three-set win over Northeastern on Sept. 7 when she posted 21 assists and 10 digs.

Last weekend Delaney Clesen surpassed 300 single-season digs for the first time in her career. The junior enters the road trip with 318 digs this fall and 898 for her career.

Pitt has struggled traditionally against nationally ranked teams. The Panthers are 8-102 all-time against top-25 teams. The last time they defeated a nationally ranked squad was Nov. 6, 2005 when they upset No. 5 Notre Dame in five sets. Each of Pitt's last three wins over a ranked team have come against Notre Dame. Pitt is 0-2 this season against ranked teams having lost to then-No. 22 Purdue (3-2) on Sept. 14 and then-No. 21 Florida State (3-0) on Oct. 13.

The second set seems to be critical to the overall outcome of the match for Pitt this year. The Panthers are 6-3 when winning the second set but just 0-6 when losing it.

Pitt is 9-1 this fall in matches when it outblocks its opponent. The only loss came just last Saturday against Virginia when the Panthers lost in five sets despite winning 17.0 to 12.0 in the blocks department. Pitt is just 2-8 when it records fewer total team blocks than its foe.

Panthers Face Road Test at N.C. State, No. 14 North Carolina

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