PITTSBURGH –The No. 1 seed University of Pittsburgh volleyball team (27-4, 16-2 ACC) defeated No. 25 USC (19-13, 12-8 Pac-12) in four sets on Saturday night in the Petersen Events Center to advance to its fourth straight Sweet 16. The Panthers were led by Rachel Fairbanks who recorded a double-double with 41 assists and 10 digs.
Pitt and USC battled from the first point, but a mini run from the Trojans allowed them to hold a 9-6 lead, forcing Pitt to take an early timeout. Neither team could find much separation as Pitt fought back to tie things up at 17-17. Two Olivia Babcock kills and a pair of USC errors was enough for the Trojans to call a timeout, with Pitt up 22-20. USC did not back down, registering three straight kills as Pitt took a timeout. A pair of Panther errors allowed the Trojans to come back and win the first set, 25-23.
The Panthers responded well, getting out to a 4-0 run behind the serve of Rachel Fairbanks, and USC called an early timeout. The Trojans went on a run of their own, tying things up at six a piece. The Panthers received a boost from Cat Flood, but a trio of Tyrah Ariail kills forced Pitt to take a timeout, down 10-13. The Panther block came alive in the following stretch, limiting USC’s chances offensively as USC took its first timeout of the set at 16-16. Valeria Vazquez Gomez continued to impress from the service line and kills from Babcock, Torrey Stafford and Chiamaka Nwokolo down the stretch secured the second set win, 25-20.
Both teams were tied 4-4 in the third set until a 6-1 run from the Panthers caused a USC timeout. The Panthers continued to push and hold the momentum, forcing the Trojans to take their final timeout down 7-15. Neither team could create another significant run until USC’s Mia Tuaniga went on a 4-0 run to hinder Pitt from momentarily winning the third set, causing the Panthers to take a timeout. Fairbanks found the hand of Babcock on the right side for back-to-back kills to secure the victory, 25-18.
Pitt continued to click on all cylinders as USC took a timeout down 11-6. The Trojans willed themselves to a run, making Pitt a bit uncomfortable as it called a timeout, up 13-12. A 5-2 Panther run behind the serve of Vazquez Gomez once again forced the Trojans to take their final timeout, down 14-18. A kill from four different Panthers following the pause in play was enough to take the fourth set, 25-18 and match, 3-1.
- Rachel Fairbanks’ 41 assists is tied for fourth for most assists in an NCAA Tournament match in program history
- Emma Monks recorded eight blocks assists, tied for first for most blocks in an NCAA Tournament match in program history
- Olivia Babcock recorded her second career double-double with 16 kills and 12 digs
The No. 1 seed Panthers continue their postseason run this Thursday against the winner of Washington State/Dayton in the Fitzgerald Field House. The time is yet to be announced by ESPN.
Source: Charissa Coleman/ Pitt Athletics