The No. 2 Pitt volleyball team has cruised most of the year but they were heavily tested this weekend. Despite that, they still clinched at least a share of a third straight ACC championship as second-place Notre Dame fell to Miami.
Coming into Friday night’s game against Georgia Tech, Pitt had lost only one set in the ACC all year on their undefeated conference run. But the Yellow Jackets took the Panthers to five sets before Pitt held on with a narrow 3-2 win.
Pitt got another somewhat unexpected test on Sunday against Clemson. The Panthers trailed 17-10 at one point in the first set and, despite making a run late to pull within two, they lost the set, 25-19. Pitt got back on track in the second set, taking that one, 25-16. Pitt took the third set, 25-19 but Clemson would not give up there. The Tigers put up a fight in the fourth, but Pitt ultimately took that one, 25-22.
What do we take away from these matches? I don’t know. Georgia Tech is one of the better teams in the conference and while there was the lapse against Clemson, sometimes that just happens. Even the best teams in the conference have lost sets to teams that aren’t that great and the important thing here is that Pitt didn’t lose either match. If the Panthers had been challenged this much all year, it would be one thing. But they have mostly dominated the competition and some tougher matches where everything doesn’t go their way is to be expected.
Another note for Pitt is that freshman hitter Chiamaka Nwokolo has been injured for a little while. I saw her in a sling or cast before and she was still wearing it Sunday. I haven’t seen anywhere indicating how long she might be out. The Panthers do still have Zoi Faki, who is probably the Panthers’ top reserve hitter. Still, the team is down a player that had worked her way into the rotation a little so it’s something to watch.
But the ACC title is, of course, yet another remarkable achievement for a program that has gone from afterthought to national title contender. It goes without saying but head coach Dan Fisher continues to do amazing things with this team. And despite losing some talented seniors, I expect they would be favored to win a fourth next year. Another win and the Panthers will clinch the title outright.
Pitt has only one game next weekend, as opposed to the usual two — a road contest with Duke on Saturday.