The sixth-ranked Pitt volleyball team traveled to University Park on Friday night and swept a Penn State team ranked fourth in the nation in three sets. Pitt won the first set 25-17, the second 25-21 and the third 25-23 to remain undefeated and improve to 11-0 on the season. In the process, the Panthers also made history.
Pitt’s victory over Penn State marked the first time Penn State was swept at home by a non-conference opponent in 33 years. The last team to accomplish the feat was UC Santa Barbara, which took down Penn State in three sets in 1986. In terms of program history, it was Pitt’s first win over Penn State since 1987 and the team's first victory on the road against Penn State since 1980.
Between 1987 and 2017, Pitt lost to Penn State 16 times. The most recent of those losses came on Dec. 2, 2017, when Penn State knocked Pitt out of the NCAA tournament with a 3-1 victory at University Park. However, with Pitt now a dominant power in the game, the shoe could be on the other foot this year.
The Final Four of the 2019 NCAA tournament will be played in Pittsburgh at PPG Paints Arena, and if Pitt is able to break into the top four of the national ranking and close out the season there, it could end up securing home-court advantage throughout the tournament.
With 19 matches left on the schedule, winning out is a tall order but not an impossible task for a Pitt team that has gone 41-2 since the start of the 2018 season. However, the first and most crucial step in achieving that goal is finishing off Penn State at the Petersen Events Center on Sunday afternoon.
Penn State is Pitt’s last significant test of the regular season, as Pitt’s only other ranked opponents are No. 23 Florida State and No. 25 Louisville. Louisville may not be ranked by the time it faces Pitt on Oct. 27, as it was swept by archrival Kentucky in Lexington on Friday. Similarly, Florida State was also swept by Florida in Gainesville the day after the most recent national ranking was released. So the Seminoles, who are scheduled to face Pitt on Oct. 6, could fall out of the rankings as well.
That leaves Penn State as Pitt's most significant remaining test, and although the Panthers have already beaten the Nittany Lions once, they remain one of the most dangerous teams in the nation. Although they have now dropped two matches out of eight, they have swept each of the six they won. In addition, Penn State's only loss prior to Friday night was to Stanford, the top team in the nation.
Pitt will host Penn State at the Petersen Events Center at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. The Panthers are calling on fans in attendance on Sunday to blue out the arena.