Pitt's volleyball team hadn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2004, but just getting there wasn't enough. The Panthers wanted to win.
They did that on Friday night with a 3-1 victory over Dayton to get to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Things started off a little bleak for Pitt. They dropped the first set and after winning the second, looked as if they were going to drop the third and put their season in serious jeopardy. Pitt trailed by seven points in that third set and ahead 22-17, Dayton only need to win three more points. But the Panthers refused to give that set away and fought all the way back. Pitt fell behind again, 25-24, giving Dayton a chance for the win. But after three straight points, they put the set away, 27-25.
If Chris were doing his turning point segment, that would be it for this one. Pitt led most of the fourth set before winning it 25-19.
Up until that comeback in the third set, Pitt was getting beaten badly on the front line and they really had a hard time getting past Dayton's blocks. They also had problems getting clean hits on the ball to set up kills. A bunch of mis-hits led them to just having to poke the ball over the net quite a bit. I don't know the stats on those compared to what they did afterwards, but it seemed like they just struck the ball much more cleanly as the match went on. And that comeback in the third set really looked like it sucked the life out of the Flyers.
Dayton simply isn't used to losing this season. Their schedule wasn't the toughest (which is why they were ranked only 23rd despite having the best record in the rankings), but at 30-1, they were nearly perfect on the year. Not only that, the Flyers routinely won matches 3-0 or 3-1 without much trouble. Dayton really cruised along this year so running into a team major-conference team like Pitt had to be a bit of a challenge. The only other major-conference team they'd faced all year was Northwestern and that was one of their closest matches - a 3-2 win. In fact, aside from their conference tournament and the one loss, that was the only team that took them to five sets all year.
The win gives Pitt another chance at finally earning a little respect. Dayton was ranked 23rd in the nation while Pitt hadn't garnered even a single vote in the Top 25 in the latest poll this week.
Now in the Round of 32, Pitt has a potentially very difficult matchup in Penn State in the next round if the Nittany Lions win their match tonight against LIU-Brooklyn. But either way, the Panthers have advanced to the second round and will look to get into the Sweet 16 over the weekend.