Pitt Volleyball to Begin 2020 Fall Season at Syracuse
9/24/2020 9:26:00 AM
PITTSBURGH – The three-time defending ACC champion Pitt volleyball team will open its eight-match fall season with a pair of contests against Syracuse at the Women’s Building in Syracuse, N.Y., Friday and Saturday.
MATCH SCHEDULE / HOW TO FOLLOW
A WIN ON FRIDAY WOULD…
Extend Pitt’s win streak when playing on the road to 16 matches. Pitt’s last road loss was Oct. 28, 2018, at Duke (3-1).
Extend Pitt’s win streak against ACC opponents to 14 matches. Pitt’s last loss against an ACC opponent was Oct. 28, 2018, at Duke (3-1).
Extend Pitt’s overall win streak against Syracuse to six matches. The Panthers’ last loss to the Orange was Nov. 22, 2015, at Fitzgerald Field House (3-1).
Extend Pitt’s win streak when playing at Syracuse to nine matches. The Panthers’ last loss when playing on the road at Syracuse was Nov. 14, 2008 (3-1).
Improve Pitt’s all-time record against Syracuse to 41-11 overall and 14-5 when playing on the road against the Orange.
Mark Pitt’s third consecutive season-opening win. Pitt’s last season-opening loss was at No. 3 Washington on Aug. 25, 2017 (3-0), in Seattle.
Mark Pitt’s eighth consecutive season with an ACC play-opening win. Since joining the conference in 2013, the Panthers have not lost an ACC play opener (7-0). Pitt is 6-0 at home and 1-0 on the road in those matches.
ACC FAVORITE, AGAIN
For the third consecutive season, Pitt was selected as the favorite in the Atlantic Coast Conference Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll, the conference announced Wednesday, Sept. 9.
The three-time defending ACC champions topped the poll with 192 points and 11 first-place votes. Louisville came in second with 175 points and two first-place votes, followed by Georgia Tech with 172 points and two first-place votes. Head coaches may not vote for their own teams.
Pitt had three student-athletes named to the 18-member Preseason All-ACC Volleyball Team. The 2019 ACC Player of the Year, senior outside hitter Kayla Lund, earned her second consecutive nod. Two Panthers earned their first appearances: senior right side Chinaza Ndee, a 2019 All-ACC First Team selection, and sophomore setter Lexis Akeo, a 2019 All-ACC Freshman Team and Second Team honoree.
RETURNING FOR PITT
The Panthers return four of seven starters from 2019, including sophomore setter Lexis Akeo, junior middle blocker Sabrina Starks, and senior captains Kayla Lund and Chinaza Ndee. Lund and Ndee were 2019 All-ACC First Team selections, with Akeo being named to the Second Team.
As a freshman, Akeo accounted for 76.3 percent of the team’s assists last year as the primary setter.
The team’s top two offensive players last season, Lund and Ndee, combined for nearly half of the Panthers’ kill output at 43.2 percent.
Starks was the team’s top blocker from last year with 137 stops. In tandem with Ndee, the pair combined for 88.7 percent of the Panthers’ blocks in 2019.
THREE NEW FACES
New Panthers on Pitt’s 2020 roster include incoming rookie outside hitter Cat Flood out of Wilmette, Ill., as well as 2019 AVCA Two-Year College National Player of the Year Jordan Lockwood and two-time Southern Conference Libero of the Year Marija Popovic, a senior transfer from ETSU.
One of the nation’s top prospects, Flood was named one of PrepVolleyball’s Top 150 Senior Aces for the Class of 2020. She was a three-time conference champion and two-time all-conference selection at New Trier High School.
Lockwood won an NJCAA National Championship with Navarro College in 2019 while recording a staggering 27 kills and 15 digs in the title match.
Popovic led ETSU to the SoCon Tournament championship in each of her three seasons, winning the title in 2017.
Led by ninth-year head coach Leonid Yelin, Syracuse was picked sixth in the ACC Preseason Coaches Poll with 126 points.
The Orange return 2019 All-ACC First Team and 2020 Preseason All-ACC selection Polina Shemanova. Last season, the outside hitter produced the most kills ever by a Syracuse sophomore with 485, good for fourth most-all time. Her 5.16 kills per set in 2019 are a program record.
Last season, the Orange ended its 2019 campaign at 12-13 overall and 9-9 in ACC play. Syracuse went 6-3 at home, winning its final six matches after starting 0-3 against Wake Forest, Duke and No. 3 Pitt.
This weekend marks the start of the 2020 fall season for both Syracuse and Pitt. The Orange and Panthers are in a five-team pod with Boston College, Notre Dame and Louisville, each playing all other teams twice.
Following a bye weekend, Pitt will host Boston College for its first home matches at Fitzgerald Field House Oct. 9 and 10.
The University of Pittsburgh was recently informed that fans will not be able to attend the Panthers’ matches at Fitzgerald Field House during the month of September. Pitt is working in concert with health officials and colleagues across the country regarding the possible accommodation of fans for home games after September.
The league’s leadership, and its medical advisory group, will continue to meet on a weekly basis to share information and discuss medical issues related to the ACC’s return to play. Should any future adjustments be necessary, the ACC Board of Directors will do so at the appropriate time.
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