PITTSBURGH – Virginia (4-7, 0-1 ACC) held late leads in the second and third sets Wednesday (Sept. 19) night, but No. 9 Pittsburgh (12-0, 1-0 ACC) rallied to remain unbeaten with a 25-17, 25-23, 25-21, victory in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
Jelena Novakovic (Belgrade, Serbia) led Virginia with nine kills and added a career-best seven blocks in the loss. Freshman Milla Ciprian (St. John’s, Fla.) also set a career high with seven rejections of her own.
Stephanie Williams led Pittsburgh with 13 kills while Chinaza Ndee added 12 for the Panthers.
SET 1: Pittsburgh 25, Virginia 17
Five blocks and a trio of service aces helped Pittsburgh pull away in the opening set. With the score 17-15, the Panthers capitalized on a Virginia service error to spark a 4-0 run. Pitt used a block and back-to-back aces to build a 21-15 lead.
Anukwuem led the Cavaliers with three kills in the opening frame on five swings.
SET 2: Pittsburgh 25, Virginia 23
Virginia opened a quick 5-2 lead in the second set behind three-straight points. Ciprian sparked the run with a kill, one of her five kills on the day.
After a timeout, Pitt closed the gap to 7-6, but the Cavaliers responded with a 7-0 run to make it a 14-6 advantage. Setter Jennifer Wineholt (San Diego, Calif.) registered a kill and an ace as part of the big Virginia run.
The Panthers responded with a 6-0 run of their own, closing the deficit to 16-13. Once again, Virginia had the answer as Ciprian rose for a solo rejection to spark a 4-0 run. Ciprian and Novakovic joined forces for back-to-back blocks to cap the run, giving the Cavaliers a 20-13 lead.
The runs continued as the Panthers rolled off a 10-1 run to make it 23-21 Pittsburgh. Virginia rallied to tie it at 23-all, but the Panthers found back-to-back kills for the 25-23 frame.
SET 3: Pittsburgh 25, Virginia 21
Much like the second set, Virginia found its way to a late lead, holding a 19-16 advantage, but a 7-0 run from the ninth-ranked Panthers helped Pittsburgh rally for the 25-21 finale.
Williams had three of her match-high 13 kills in the decisive run. Ndee’s 12th kill of the night moved the Panthers to set point before a service ace closed the match.
• Sophomore Alex Spencer (North Canton, Ohio) hit a career-best .582 (8-1-12) on the night.
• Virginia is just the fourth team to hold Pittsburgh’s top-ranked attack to under .300 hitting this season.
• The Cavaliers contained ACC scoring leader Kayla Lund to 11 kills and a season-low .107 attack percentage.
• Virginia racked up 12 blocks for the third time this season, led by Novakovic and Ciprian with seven apiece.
Virginia returns to action on Sunday (Sept. 23) at Virginia Tech. The match is part of the Commonwealth Clash.