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The Pitt volleyball team made history on Thursday evening, as they advanced to the ‘Sweet 16’ of the NCAA Tournament with a 3-0 (25-16, 25-18, 25-19) sweep over 14th-seeded Utah.The Panthers have advanced to the NCAA Tournament 16 times in program history, but had never made it out of the second round until last evening.

Pitt has made five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, but the previous four have all have resulted in second round defeats. The Panthers are playing as well as any team in the country. After starting the year with a 4-4 record in the fall, Pitt has an unblemished 14-0 record since the season resumed in February.

The Panthers came out as the aggressor in the first game. After falling behind 5-2 early, Pitt then went on an 16-5 run to take full control of the match at 18-10. The Utes did rally some and get it to 19-14, but closed on a 6-2 run to take it.

The second match proved to be a bit more competitive as the two teams fought back and forth with five ties. The Utes grabbed a 15-14 lead, but Pitt closed on an impressive 11-3 run to take the second set.

It was more of the same in the third and final set as it proved to be a competitive match that was back and forth, but once again this one ended with a strong finish from the Panthers. Utah had Pitt’s lead down to 18-17, but a 7-2 push ended the match and put the Panthers into the third round of the tournament.

The Panthers were once again paced by its two senior stars: Chinaza Ndee and ACC Player of the Year, Kayla Lund. Ndee led Pitt with 17 kills, while Lund added 15 kills and 16 digs. Freshman Valeria Vazquez Gomez had a strong showing as well with 8 kills of her own.

Pitt will take its 18-4 record into Sunday’s Regional Semifinal opposite third-seeded Minnesota. The Golden Gophers own a 16-2 record and are coming off a 3-0 sweep over Georgia Tech. The match will be streamed on ESPN3 and is set1:00 p.m. Should the Panthers win, the team would advance to the Regional Final on Monday against the winner of Washington and Louisville.

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