Bradford, Pa. -- The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford women's volleyball team easily won its first round game in the AMCC Championship Tournament. The Panthers dominated the 6th seeded LaRoche University Redhawks in the straight set victory, compiling a .246 hitting percentage while holding their opponents to a -.008.
After losing a point on the opening serve, the Panthers got momentum on their side by scoring 9 in a row to build an early lead. Riley Anderson got the serve back on an immediate kill to force a side out after losing the opening rally. She then recorded an ace of her own to start her serving rotation. Pitt-Bradford used another Anderson ace, two hitting errors and two kills from Emily Cleveland to force an early LaRoche timeout. Once the Redhawks were able to break Anderson's serve, the panthers got another quick side out courtesy of Cleveland to start another scoring run. Libero Laura Hildebrand took over and scored another five to put the Panthers up 14-2. With the big lead, the Panthers were able to swap points for the remainder of the set, leading to a 25-9 1st set victory. Cleveland put down 8 kills on 12 swings with no errors in the opening frame for an incredible .667 hitting percentage.
The second set started off a much closer affair, but the Panthers got hot midway through the set, finishing it on an 18-5 run. Up 7-5, Kaitlyn Sexton and Sydney Shepherd picked up a block to start the run and then Elizabeth Johnson and Shepherd put down back to back kills to force a LaRoche timeout. The Redhawks responded to their coaches timeout, however it would be short lived as the Panthers quickly pushed their lead to eight shortly afterward. Up four points, Cleveland picked up a kill to return to the serve to the home side and after a Katie treat kill, picked up a half block and another kill leading to the second Redhawk timeout of the set. This timeout was not as effective, as the Panthers continued their sharp play to finish the set on a 8-2 rally to win 25-12. Cleveland led the way yet again in the second set with 6 more kills.
The closing set was much more competitive between the teams, as the early exchanges saw 3 lead changes and 4 ties. Pitt-Bradford was able to break open the set with a 4 point run on another Riley Anderson serve. LaRoche was able to regain the serve at 12-16, however another quick Panther side out was followed by three more points to push the lead to seven. The Redhawks were able to cut into the lead late, coming within three points, however a Pitt-Bradford timeout ended the momentum, and the Panthers scored 5 of the last 6 points to close the match. Anderson led the way in the set with 4 kills, while Cleveland added another three.
Overall Emily Cleveland finished the match with 17 kills and a .371 hitting percentage. She also added 2 aces, 3 digs and a half block. Riley Anderson finished with 9 kills, and led the Panthers in digs with 14 and 3 service aces. Tabitha Walker dished out 21 assists and Gabby Barnes added 11 of her own. Laura Hildebrand also finished with double digit digs with 13.
When asked about the game, Pitt-Bradford head coach Tom Roof said, "It was a nice way to start the post-season. We came ready to play and everyone was focused and we played near perfect in every aspect of the game. Emily (Cleveland) always performs in big games for us, and everyone that played stepped up and rose to the occasion. Looking forward we have a big weekend ahead of this. We need to play with the same energy we had tonight."
The victory moves the Panthers (17-12, 8-2 AMCC) into the conference semifinal. They will face the 2nd seeded Mount Aloysius Mounties with a spot in the championship match belonging to the victor. In their regular season match-up, held at Mount Aloysius, the Panthers fell 3 sets to 1. They will look to get revenge on the Mounties as they did in last years tournament, which they went on to win. The game will take place at 4:30 PM. Top seeded Penn State-Behrend is the host for both the semifinal and championship rounds of the tournament.