No. 5 Pitt volleyball suffered a four set loss to No. 17 BYU Friday afternoon, making it their second straight season with a loss in the opener. They made no mistake Saturday afternoon, defeating Montana in a sweep in the Ellesyn Invitational in Missoula, Mont.
The Panthers (1-1) get their first sweep since defeating BYU last season in the NCAA Tournament in the Round of 32. It is also just the second match ever against the Grizzlies (0-2), as the Panthers won the first ever meeting in 1996.
Pitt excelled in their first set, hitting .750 and dominating at the net. They took leads of 10-5, 15-6, 20-9 and then won the set, 25-12. This continued into the second set, with Pitt taking an 11-1 lead and then easily winning the set 25-11, their most dominant set since Boston College in the 2022 regular season finale.
The Grizzlies played better to start the third set, keeping it tied at 8-8. The Panthers used a 9-4 run to build a 17-12 advantage and then went on to win the match with a 25-16 set victory.
Sophomore middle blocker Rachel Jepsen made her first start of the season and just her third career start for Pitt. She finished first with seven kills, along with first-years in right-side hitter Olivia Babcock and outside hitter Torrey Stafford and Florida transfer and junior middle blocker Bre Kelley. Jepsen also led with a perfect 1.000 hitting percentage, seven kills on seven attacks, and was second with three total blocks.
Babcock displayed her dominance across the court, with those seven kills, along with two service aces, two total blocks and a .455 hitting percentage. Stafford hit .700, while also contributing one total block, one dig and one serve ace, while fellow first-year outside hitter Blaire Bayless had six kills, .625 hitting percentage and three total blocks.
Kelley continues to led by example at the net, leading with four total blocks and hitting .875 in the win over Montana.
Juniors in setter Rachel Fairbanks and libero Emmy Klika led the Panthers with 23 assists and 13 digs in the victory, respectively. First-year Haiti Tautua’a also had 13 assists herself in the win.
Junior outside hitter Julianna Dalton made her first start for Pitt since that Boston College match in 2022, as she dealt with injury at the end of last season.
Graduates in middle blocker Chiamaka Nwokolo and Virginia Tech transfer defensive specialist/libero Logan Mosley, as well as senior outside hitter Cat Flood, did not play for Pitt today. Redshirt senior outside hitter Valeria Vasquez Gomez played just one set against Montana.
Pitt volleyball finishes the Ellesyn Invitational Sunday afternoon, as they face The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley at 12 p.m. EST.