On Friday night, Pitt’s tenth-ranked volleyball team defeated Florida State, 3-1. The win clinches at least a share of the ACC title as the Panthers repeat as conference champs. Pitt will have a chance to win the conference outright by defeating either Miami or Georgia Tech in their final two regular season matches.
The first two sets were very competitive with Pitt having a little more, winning 25-22, then 25-21. Florida State raced out to a fast start before Pitt closed with a late rally to make things a little more respectable. The Panthers lost that set 25-20. In the fourth, it was Pitt that got out to a fast start, though. The Panthers were up 10-0 at one point before cruising to pick up the 3-1 victory.
I didn’t think Pitt looked particularly great tonight. However, I’m also willing to chalk some of that up to the defense played by Florida State.
The Seminoles repeatedly stymied Pitt up front and it was not an easy win by any means. Still, Pitt was out of system a bit too much for my liking and didn’t have a great night offensively. Sometimes they didn’t get great sets, having to resort to simply getting the ball over. And sometimes even when they did get good sets, the hitters flubbed shots or simply dumped the ball over instead of swinging hard. Much of that had to do with repeatedly running into a wall of Florida State blockers, so I’m not even faulting the strategy. It’s just that it certainly made Pitt’s night tougher than usual when they can just dunk on everyone and spike the ball to their hearts’ content.
And here’s the thing. Florida State is a pretty good team. We’ve all kind of looked at Pitt as this powerhouse and, at 27-1, they very much are. But Florida State at 17-9 is a solid team. Just like 20-7 Louisville is as well as 16-7 Syracuse. The ACC isn’t the Big Ten this year or any year, frankly. But with five teams in the Top 40 in the RPI, there are some decent programs there. The Seminoles looked pretty tough tonight giving Pitt quite a handful. I’ve seen the Panthers play much better this year but that was also a great defensive effort from the opponent, too.
Pitt has more work to do, obviously. Winning at least one of the last two is important to win the conference championship outright without a share. And, really, it’s pretty important for them to win both of the remaining matches to host the first round of NCAAs. The one Sunday on the road against Miami, in particular, could be a real challenge. The Hurricanes are ‘only’ 13-10 on the year but they’re 9-2 at home
Then, of course, Pitt will look to advance in the NCAAs past the first weekend after some early exits after losing to Penn State the last two seasons.
For now, though, it’s great to see Pitt once again sit atop the ACC conference for the second year in a row and have been dominant there. Tough test and we’ll see if Pitt is up for it on Sunday.