No. 10 Pitt played North Carolina in their first ACC game of the season and worked hard to defeat them in four sets to get the victory.
The Panthers’ (10-2) win is the seventh straight over the Tar Heels (8-4), dating back to 2016. It is the third straight win for the Panthers and kicks off ACC play on a good start, as they look to win their first ACC title since 2019.
Graduate middle blocker Serena Grey played a big part in the win over the Tar Heels for the Panthers. She led with a .750 hit percentage and .833 kill percentage, while also finishing second with 10 kills.
She said that while she played a good game offensively, she didn’t make the touches she needed to defensively. She also said that the team played an alright game, but didn’t stay true to their style of play to put North Carolina away earlier on.
“I think at times we got away from our style,” Grey said. “We stopped going to crush and instead we’re looking to win by shots, while we’re a team that likes to have range, that’s not our style. We win because we’re going to come at you hard, time and time again. I think that’s where we lacked, but I think we definitely took ourselves out of couple holes we had. So I think emotionally and in terms of stamina, that was our strength of the match.”
Pitt and UNC battled back and forth throughout the first set, with both teams struggling to take control.
The Tar Heels took a quick 6-3 lead, forcing Panthers head coach Dan Fisher to take a timeout. They looked to expand their lead even further up four, but the Panthers scored three straight points to cut the deficit to one at 14-13.
Both teams kept it close and found each other tied at 23 points a piece. Pitt then got back-to-back kills from senior middle blocker/right setter Chiamaka Nwokolo and graduate outside hitter Julianna Dalton to take the first set, 25-23.
The Panthers dominated from the start of the second set, beginning on a 7-1 run. They continued to hold a sizable lead the rest of the way, not allowing the Tar Heels any chance to make a comeback and winning the set, 25-17.
Pitt and North Carolina battled it out in the third set, as neither team could break away from the other.
Eventually, North Carolina scored three straight points to take a 20-16 lead, giving them the momentum. Pitt could only chip away at the lead, but North Carolina stood strong and prevented the sweep, with a 25-20 win.
Gray said that Pitt made mistakes in that third set, like missing serves at crucial moments and not giving enough effort on defense. She also said that UNC played well in that set, allowing them to take the lead late and then the set itself.
“I think a little bit of it was North Carolina stopped making mistakes in the second and third sets,” Gray said. “I think we were definitely expecting it to be handed to us, but then also at the same time we started to make mistakes. So I think it was a little bit of both.”
The Panthers and Tar Heels started off the fourth set close, with the Panthers only holding a 9-8 advantage.
Pitt then went on an 11-3 run to separate themselves from UNC, to take a 20-11 lead. They kept up the good performance and won the set, 25-16, and the match as well.
Graduate right setter Courtney Buzzerio led the Panthers in kills for the fourth straight game with 14 against the Tar Heels.
Sophomore setter Rachel Fairbanks finished first with 31 assists for Pitt and tying for second in digs with 11.
Senior middle blocker/right setter Chiamaka Nwokolo played a solid game for the Panthers, finishing in second with a .538 hitting percentage and a .692 kill percentage and also tying for second with nine kills.
Pitt takes finishes a seven game home-stand with a match against NC State on Sunday, Sept. 25 at 1 p.m.