Pitt took on American in the first home game of the 2022 season and had no trouble in sweeping them in three sets to begin the Panther Challenge.
The Panthers (6-1) make it their fourth sweep of the season with the win over the Eagles (6-1). The win also gives the Eagles their first loss of the season and keeps the Panthers perfect against them all-time, with 12 victories to zero losses. Graduate right setter Courtney Buzzerio said that inspite of the shaky third set, the first two sets were brilliant and her team came out “all cylinders firing.”
“I think going into the match we really just wanted to focus on ourselves,” Buzzerio said. “Early matches the past two weekends, I think we’ve started out slow. So it’s a real big emphasis for us to play our game, focus on our side. I thought we did that pretty well.”
Pitt played some fantastic defense against American, holding them to a -.101 hitting percentage, the lowest in a game since 2016. Pitt head coach Dan Fisher said that American could’ve played a little better, but that his team stayed stout and strong defensive to keep them from gaining any momentum offensively.
“It started today with our serve,” Fisher said. “I think we made it really hard for them to be in system and then we are a tall team and they had to go up against a double block a lot.”
Pitt started out tied at three points in the first set, but went on a 9-0 run to break out to a 12-3 lead. They continued to dominate, outscoring American 13-6 to win the set 25-9, their biggest margin of victory of a set this season.
The Panthers never allowed the Eagles to come close to them in the second set, starting out with a 9-6 lead and then using a 7-1 run to break open to a 16-7 lead. The Panthers finished out the set, 9-4, to win it 25-10 and take a 2-0 lead.
Pitt struggled initially in the third set, as American took a 8-6 lead, prompting Fisher to call a timeout. Pitt managed to make another 7-1 run to take a 13-9 lead, but American kept it close late, as Pitt lead only 18-15. Pitt then finished the set and match by scoring seven unanswered points, making it 25-15 and a sweep as well.
“I think we were shaky because of the errors,” Fisher said. “What you don’t want to do against any team is make it easy for them to feel like they can get points. So we went through a streak where we were giving up points easily, so we just buckled down.”
Buzzerio led the Panthers against the Eagles with 12 kills, .588 hitting percentage and .706 kill percentage. She also got her 1,000 kill of her career in the win. After transferring from Iowa this offseason, Buzzerio is now a big part of the Panthers offensive attack and Fisher is thrilled with her play so far.
“She is everything we’d thought she’d be,” Fisher said. “With the graduation of Chinaza Ndee last year, we felt like when she committed, we were bringing in someone that wouldn’t skip a beat on that right side. Someone that could just carry a big load as a hitter, that can win our passing struggles, that we can get her the ball and she’ll still side us out and she’s been wonderful.”
The Panthers made 14 aces against the Eagles, the most in Fisher’s 10 seasons as head coach. Sophomore setter Rachel Fairbanks created six of those aces, tying her for the most by a Panther in a game in program history in the 25-point rally scoring era (since 2008).
Pitt plays again on Friday at 7:30 p.m. against Bowling Green, looking to continue their winning streak throughout the weekend. Fisher looks to get two more victories this weekend, especially against mid-major teams who look poised to win their respective conferences.
“We think this tournament is just a great tournament for our RPI,” Fisher said. “All of these teams you might see in the NCAA Tournament winning their league and both Bowling Green and Towson have hitters who are going to cause us trouble. So we need to be ready to bring it tonight and tomorrow.”