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Pitt Volleyball

No. 7 Pitt Volleyball Takes on Rival No. 8 Georgia Tech in Rematch



Pitt volleyball

No. 7 Pitt volleyball faces off against rival No. 8 Georgia Tech once again this weekend, setting up a rematch for two top 10 teams in the country.

The Panthers will take on the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta, Friday at 5 p.m., which the ACC Network has chosen to broadcast. The two teams are in first place of the ACC, with a 12-2 records, along with No. 5 Louisville and Florida State, and have proven their place with the best programs in the sport.

Pitt defeated Georgia Tech in the first match back on Oct. 6 at Fitzgerald Field House. They took leads in the first two sets, but Georgia Tech would come back and win both, to earn a 2-0 lead in the match. Pitt would dominate the third and fourth sets, before pulling away late in the fifth set to complete the reverse sweep.

Pitt volleyball is 7-2 since they last faced the Yellow Jackets, with losses both coming on the road, in a sweep to then ranked No. 6 Louisville on Oct. 13 and in five sets Florida State last Friday. Six of their victories came in sweeps, against Clemson, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest at home and Notre Dame and NC State on the road. They had to settle for a four-set win over a good Miami team on the road on Sunday.

Georgia Tech has won six straight matches and are 8-1 since they lost to the Panthers a month ago. The signature win came against then ranked No. 3 Louisville last Friday at home in four sets. They also have victories over Virginia, Syracuse and Boston College on the road and Notre Dame, Florida State, Duke and North Carolina at home. They had to go to five sets against Virginia, Florida State and Boston College, four sets against Duke and North Carolina and sweeps against Notre Dame and Syracuse.

Their only loss came against Miami at home in a sweep, just their second loss at home this season, which saw them lose in four sets to rival Georgia on Sept. 15 at McCamish Pavilion, their basketball arena.

The Panthers hold a large all-time series lead over Georgia Tech, 14-2, including 14-1 since joining the ACC and they have won the past four matches. The Panthers are also 6-0 all-time at Georgia Tech, which includes a 3-1 victory last season at McCamish Pavilion, the first volleyball match played in the facility.

Pitt, statistically, is leading the ACC in a multitude of categories. They are first in points, 18.23 per set, in opponent hitting percentage, .138, in hitting percentage, .303, in assists, 12.76 per set, in opponent assists, 9.60 per set, in kills, 13.80 per set, in blocks, 3.05 per set and in opponent digs, 10.40 per set.

Leading the conference in so many different areas comes with having great players, which these Panthers surely are.

First-year right side hitter Olivia Babcock is not just one of the best players in her class, but also one of the best in the ACC and the country as well.

She leads Pitt volleyball in kills with 287 kills, 29 service aces, 363.0 total points, is second with 89.0 total blocks and third with a .310 hitting percentage. In terms of the ACC, her 4.32 points per set ranks No. 3, 3.42 kills per set ranks No. 7 and both her 0.35 service aces per set and 1.06 blocks per set rank No. 10.

Graduate student middle blockers Chiamaka Nwokolo and Emma Monks dictate matches at the net. Their great play is why Pitt volleyball not only leads in blocks in the ACC,  but in Division I too.

Nwokolo leads the ACC and is third in the nation, hitting .449, while her 1.29 blocks per set is also No. 4 in the ACC. Monks is No. 1 in the conference and No. 4 in Division I with 1.54 blocks per set, while also No. 4 in the conference with a .414 hitting percentage. Pitt is also No. 4 in Division I in hitting percentage as a team. 

Junior setter Rachel Fairbanks is continuing to show why she is one of the best at her position. Her 624 assists leads the Panthers and her 8.79 assists per set ranks No. 6 in the ACC. Junior libero/defensive specialist Emmy Klika also leads the Panthers with 267 digs and 3.26 per set.

Outside hitters in first-year Torrey Stafford and redshirt senior Valeria Vazquez Gomez excel both on the attack and defensively. Stafford has the second most kills, 264, and points, 307.0, on Pitt volleyball, while also ranking fourth on the team with 59.0 total blocks. Vazquez Gomez is third on Pitt with 167 kills and second with 142 digs.

Georgia Tech possesses a great team as well, ranking in the top five teams in every statistical category, aside from blocks and opponent digs.

Junior outside hitter Bianca Bertolino, a top server like Babcock, leads the ACC and Division I with .62 service aces per set. She had four against Pitt in their matchup earlier this season. Bertolino also is No. 5 in the ACC with 4.05 points per set, as she is second on the team with 281 kills and fourth with 45 blocks.

Senior outside hitter Tamera Otene leads the Yellow Jackets in kills with 315 and is second with 280 digs. Her 3.62 kills per set ranks No. 4 in the ACC and she is also No. 5 in the conference with 4.01 points per set.

Senior setter Isabella D’Amico is first on Georgia Tech with 584 assists and is ninth best in the ACC with 7.68 assists per set. Fifth year libero/defensive specialist Paolo Pimentel is second in the ACC with 4.38 digs per set, helping Georgia Tech as a team lead the conference with 15.41 digs per set.

First-year setter Heloise Soares also plays a good amount for the Yellow Jackets, coming in second with 390 assists, 5.49 per set. Fellow first-year Larissa Mendes is first on the team along with junior middle blocker DeAndra Pierce with 49 blocks, while Mendes has the third most kills with 268.

The biggest difference between the two teams is blocking. Pitt leads the ACC, while Georgia Tech is No. 13, third worst, with 1.96 blocks per set. Pitt wins most of their matches when it blocks better than the other team and their 14 blocks versus Georgia Tech’s six the last time they faced off proved a vital part of Pitt’s victory.

The win for either side will play a large role in securing an ACC Title, but also a great spot in the NCAA Tournament. It also helps playing on television, which puts an added incentive on both teams to put on a show for the country to see.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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