The No. 7 Pitt volleyball team traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee, over the weekend for a showdown with No. 9 Baylor and a tilt with host team Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena. And during their trip to the South, the Panthers dealt the Bears a 3-2 loss on Saturday night and dispatched the Lady Vols by the same score on Sunday afternoon.
Pitt’s first match of the weekend kicked off a little after 7:30 on Saturday night, and the opening set saw the Panthers and Bears trade blows early. However, the Panthers would jump out to a 14-9 lead after a 6-0 run and would eventually take the set 25-17, thanks in large part to Pitt outside hitter Kayla Lund, who led the team with six kills in the first frame.
Baylor would flip the script on Pitt in the next set, going on an 11-2 run and topping Pitt 25-17. The Bears were led to the set win by Baylor outside hitter Yossiana Pressley, who responded to Lund’s six kills from the first set with six of her own. The battle between Lund and Pressley would bleed into the next set, with Pressley again posting six kills, this time to Lund’s four. And after a 25-23 set victory, Baylor would take a 2-1 lead in the match.
But Pitt would surge back in the fourth set, with Lund logging five kills to Pressley’s two and Pitt right side Chinaza Ndee stepping up to get a team-high six kills of her own. As a result, Pitt would win the set 25-19 and force a fifth. And in that final set, Pitt would again overwhelm Baylor, this time 15-11, with Lund leading the way. All told, Lund and Ndee would both post season highs, with 21 kills and 15 kills, and the Panthers would win 3-2.
The matchup with Tennessee followed a similar path on Sunday, as the Panthers and Lady Vols went back and forth all day. The match kicked off around 2:45, and again, the Panthers came out swinging and took the first set 25-23, this time thanks in part to four kills apiece from Chinaza Ndee and Pitt outside hitter Leketor Member-Meneh. However, errors would plague the Panthers in the following set, which the Lady Vols would win 25-16.
The third set of the Tennessee match would be the tightest of the weekend, as it saw four lead changes and a late 26-26 tie. But a kill by Lund and a block by Serena Gray and Valeria Vazquez Gomez would seal a 28-26 win and give Pitt a 2-1 lead. However, that lead would quickly be conceded, as the Panthers dropped the next set to the Lady Vols 25-20.
In the deciding set, the Panthers would fall behind early but then regain their footing. And after taking a 6-5 lead on an attack error, Pitt would never hand the lead back to their hosts, taking a 15-10 set win and a 3-2 overall win.
With the two wins over the weekend, Pitt improved to 5-0 on the season. The team also put itself in position to rise in the national rankings, as No. 5 Florida and No. 3 Kentucky both suffered their first losses of the season, with Florida falling 3-1 to No. 20 Stanford and Kentucky getting swept 3-0 by Creighton.
On Friday, Pitt will head back home to the Fitzgerald Field House to host Bowling Green, BYU and High Point in the Panther Challenge. The first matchup will be with High Point on Friday morning, and that will be followed by meetings with BYU on Friday night and Bowling Green on Saturday night. The matchup with High Point kicks off Friday at 10 a.m. ET.