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Pitt Volleyball

No. 8 Pitt Defeats Rival No. 2 Louisville in Five Sets to Take Top Spot in the ACC



PITTSBURGH — No. 8 Pitt took down No. 2 Louisville in an exhilarating, five set thriller Sunday afternoon in front of a crowd of 2,696 at Fitzgerald Field House, to sit atop the ACC.

The Panthers (20-2 overall, 10-0 ACC) win is their 12th straight overall and the first over the Cardinals (18-2 overall, 9-1 ACC) since 2020, ending a three match losing streak against them. The win is also the fourth straight over at top 10 opponent this season and their second at home against a top 5 team, with the other a sweep over then ranked No. 5 Ohio State in September. It is also the highest rank win in program history for the Panthers.

“It was a great win for our program,” Panthers head coach Dan Fisher said. “I think it’s another step in our goal to host the first two rounds. I think it was a strange game. They just made a lot of attacking errors the first two sets and it made it kind of seem like it was going to be easier than it was. We had a chance to step on it in the third and we didn’t do it. I thought we showed a lot of heart.”

Pitt dominated the first set, starting out with a 5-1 run and then increasing their lead to 10-4. They kept the lead and didn’t let Louisville come anywhere close, taking a 20-12 lead and then finishing off the set, 25-15.

The Panthers led throughout much of the second set, but the Cardinals stayed within reach at 14-10. They finished the set off on a 11-3 run, 25-13, to take a two set lead.

It looked to be much of the same in the third set, as Pitt continued to build leads of 10-6, 15-10 and 19-16.

Louisville, with the match on the line, responded by scoring four of the next five points to tie the set at 20. Pitt then retook the lead with two straight points, but Louisville got their first lead of the set, 23-22, with three consecutive kills, two by graduate outside hitter Claire Chaussee.

Both teams traded points back and forth and it ended up 25-25. The Cardinals made two straight kills, one from junior middle blocker Phekran Kong and another from redshirt junior outside hitter Nena Moon to win the set, 27-25.

The road team continued their momentum through the initial stages of the fourth set, taking a 7-3 lead. The Panthers responded with a 13-7 run to take a 16-14 lead in hopes of finishing the match off.

The Cardinals retook control with an 8-0 scoring run to gain a 22-16 advantage. They soon tied the match at two sets a piece, as they won the set, 25-20.

Pitt regrouped in the intermission before the fifth set and came out with the same intensity they had to start the match. They took leads of 7-3 and then 9-4, forcing two timeouts from Louisville.

The Cardinals didn’t falter so easily, as they scored six straight points to retake the lead, 10-9.

The Panthers got the lead back, 11-10, off of two kills from graduate right side hitter Buzzerio and redshirt junior outside hitter Valeria Vasquez Gomez, but the Cardinals tied it again with a kill from graduate setter Rachel Lazaro.

An attack error from Louisville put Pitt back on top. Buzzerio then finished the match herself, with three kills on the next four points to win the final set, 15-12.

Buzzerio once again starred for the Panthers against the Cardinals. She finished with a team-high and season-high 22 kills in the victory, making it the 14th straight game she’s led the team in kills. It is also the 14th straight game in double-digits for kills and the 17th game this season, overall.  She also played an efficient match, with a .302 hitting percentage, her ninth straight game over .300 in the category. Defensively, she finished tied second on the Panthers with graduate middle blocker Serena Gray with five total blocks and fourth with eight digs.

After the game, she spoke with the ESPNU broadcast and discussed the importance of Pitt’s depth and how that helps them in big games such as this one.

“I think people are just finding their way through the lineup,” Buzzerio said. “Finding little things that they can contribute. I thought the people that came off the bench to serve, play defense really well. So I think everyone on the team is finding their little thing that they can contribute on the court and get us to put up these great wins at the end of the day.”

Gray finished second behind Buzzerio with 15 kills against Louisville, a season-high for her. She worked with fellow middle blocker, senior Chiamaka Nwokolo, to make some crucial blocks and quick kills to get the win on Sunday. Nwokolo finished with five kills and led with eight total blocks for Pitt.

As a team captain, she led her team through the difficult ending to the third set and the lost fourth set. She said that the team doesn’t have expectations for this season, but rather achieving statistical goals that will enable them to reach their highest potential and match peformance.

“We actually have no expectations,” Gray said. “We always want to play to our standard or better. Our standard is, I think we are hitting at least .280 every game, certain number of blocks. I think we want to pass at least 2:2 or 2:3. So there are certain statistical things that we expect ourselves to do and if we do them, winning Is a byproduct. So there’s no expectation on the outcome, it’s rather, “Are we playing our best right now?”

Sophomore setter Rachel Fairbanks continues to lead in passing as she created 37 assists against the Cardinals, her third most in a game this season. She also provided 10 digs and eight kills, third and fourth most, respectively, on the Panthers.

Senior libero/defensive specialist Ashley Browske led Pitt with 13 digs and fellow senior, setter Lexis Akeo, provided 16 assists of the bench against Louisville.

Pitt plays their next four matches on the road, with the first coming this Friday, Oct. 28 against Wake Forest in Winston Salem, N.C.


Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 year ago

Huge win against a great team. This proves again we can beat anyone in the country! I like the mentality of trying to just play your best and let the winning be a byproduct. Hopefully about to start a successful road trip now!

1 year ago

great win …. really exciting. Go Ladies !

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