Pitt’s volleyball team played a pretty strong match but ended up losing in Louisville on Friday, 3-2.
The Panthers have probably played better defensive teams but I;m hard-pressed to think of one that I’ve seen them play this year. The Cardinals seemed to dig out hard hit after hard hit against Pitt. That’s a little unusual to see happen since the Panthers have so many hard hitters but I thought Louisville’s back line was fantastic.
I also can’t remember a match this year where there have been so many long rallies. It was just really entertaining to watch, even though Pitt fell short. The digs on the night were virtually equal (Louisville had 58 to Pitt’s 57) and that usually means a lot of great rallies.
Pitt’s libero Angela Seman played a heck of a match, I thought. Louisville’s back line was strong but Seman had 19 digs for the Panthers. She, as much as anyone, was partly responsible for the long rallies on Pitt’s side. Freshman Kayla Lund also continues playing well. She led Pitt in kills with 12 and, after winning her third ACC Rookie of the Week award this past week, has to be in the discussion for the season award.
Lund actually ties into the third player that I thought was really good tonight - senior Mariah Bell. Lund basically took her spot in the starting lineup (which is always a weird situation with a freshman replacing a senior) and Bell was really good off the bench with ten kills. One, if I recall correctly, was off a really good swing from about the middle of Pitt’s side of the court and away from the net where she does most of her damage. If the Panthers are going to do anything the rest of this year, they’re going to need her.
The biggest problem for Pitt was probably getting off to a slow start. The Panthers had a 21-19 lead in a back-and-forth first set but after a Louisville timeout, the Cardinals went on a 6-0 run to close it out. You never want to say the turning point can happen that early in a match, but I really think it did. The two teams were back and forth all night and that was an opportunity missed to go out and grab an early lead. It was also big because it was the closest set of the night.
Pitt won a lopsided second set, 25-15. Louisville took the third, 25-18, and the Panthers took the fourth, 25-19. The fifth set went to Louisville, 15-12.
I thought Pitt mostly played pretty decent but was just beaten by a really great defensive effort by Louisville. The digs were mostly even but many of the shots that typically go down for kills were kept alive by the Cardinals and they just made more plays.
Overall, it’s not the end of Pitt’s ACC title hopes by a long shot. The Panthers, you might recall, lost last weekend to NC State. That put them into a tie for first instead of the outright lead they held. But the Wolfpack were just shut out tonight against Miami and the result is now a three-way tie in terms of losses - Pitt, Louisville, and NC State all have two. Louisville is technically in first with one more win as they’ve played one more game but it’s basically gridlock at the top. Still lots of time for the Panthers to win a championship.
Next up for the Panthers is Notre Dame on Sunday.