- 16-seed Penn State def. Pitt 3-1 (20-25, 25-16, 25-13, 25-18)
- Penn State advances to Sweet 16, where they will play Arizona next weekend
- Rec Hall, University Park, Pennsylvania
- Attendance: 1,537
The Penn State Nittany Lions knocked off in-state rivals Pitt on Saturday night in front of a home crowd to advance to the Sweet 16.
This game followed what has become a familiar pattern across the country early on in this year’s NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship tournament. The favorites from Penn State dropped the first set, then roared back to win the next 3 and advance, which happened in several instances in the first two rounds of action this weekend.
“They were better prepared to play at the onset than we were,” Penn State head coach Russ Rose said. “But I thought we steadied out, we played together well. We had 3 players with double digit kills that gave us the balance that we needed in that point in time.”
Haleigh Washington had 14 kills (2 errors, 26 total attacks, .462 percentage) to lead the home team to victory. She also added 6 blocks as part of a 13-5.5 edge for the Nittany Lions at the net.
Simone Lee also had 14 kills in the winning effort, though it took her 46 swings to achieve that same number.
Pitt came out swinging early, hitting .567 in a first set win. They forced a Penn State timeout after taking a 9-3 lead – with all 9 of those Panther points being scored on kills, and needing just 11 attacks to do so.
Out of the time-out, Penn State fought back to pull within 3, but then Pitt turned momentum with a timeout of its own. Junior Mariah Bell had 7 of her 8 kills in that first set. In their biggest wins of the regular season, against Colorado State, Michigan, and UNC, Pitt actually tended to get off to slow starts and then fought back against more renowned teams, rather than Saturday when the opposite happened.
After their big first set, Pitt wouldn’t hit better than .129 in any frame for the duration (including a -.214 percentage in the 3rd set).
Penn State, meanwhile, hit well in all four sets (.321 in total), but both their offense and defense lurched forward in the second set. From there out, it was all Tar Heels.
Penn State advances to play the top seed in the tournament, Nebraska, with that game likely happening in Lincoln. They lost to Nebraska twice in the regular season, but one of those times pushed them to 5 sets.
Courtesy Penn State Athletics:
Courtesy Pitt Athletics:
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The University of Pittsburgh volleyball team concluded an unforgettable season Saturday evening, falling to No. 13 Penn State (16th seed), 3-1, in Rec Hall in University Park, Pa., in the second round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament.
Pitt concludes the season 25-9 after reaching the tournament for the first time since 2004 and the second round for the first time since 2003.
How it Happened
Pitt came out of the gate swinging in the first set, picking up a 25-20 win to stun Penn State [24-9] and take a 1-0 lead in the match. Despite the Panthers’ fighting to the end, the Nittany Lions found their rhythm and won three consecutive sets 25-16, 25-13 and 25-18.
Pitt’s offense was a key component in their opening set win, tallying a .567 hitting percentage and 20 kills. On the night, the Panthers were led by freshman Nika Markovic and redshirt freshman Stephanie Williams. The two players each tallied 14 kills, while Markovic earned her final double-double of the season adding 12 digs.
Sophomore setter Kamalani Akeo aided Pitt’s attack with 41 assists, 14 of which came in the opening set. Akeo was the second Panther to earn a double-double, adding 11 digs to the mix.
Defensively, redshirt sophomore Angela Seman led Pitt with 15 digs, while redshirt senior Jenna Potts, who played her final match with the Panthers, tallied a team-leading five blocks. Pitt led both teams with a total of 55 digs.
Set One: Pitt 25, Penn State 20
In the opening set, a dominate offensive performance led the Panthers to a 25-20 victory over the Nittany Lions.
Pitt commanded the floor at the beginning, taking a 9-3 lead to force an early Penn State timeout. The Panthers registered their first nine points on kills after just 11 attacks.
Pitt remained in control as the set continued, pounding the ball offensively. The Panthers led by seven midway through, but the Nittany Lions found their way back within three, 16-13.
At this point, Pitt called its first timeout to regroup and did just. Kills by Potts, junior Mariah Bell and Markovic, who demolished her seventh kill of the set, forced Penn State to burn its final timeout as the home team found itself trailing 20-15.
The Panthers held off a late run by the Nittany Lions in the final points en route to a first set win.
Pitt finished the opener with a .567 hitting percentage after tallying 20 kills on 30 attacks with just three errors. Markovic led all Panthers with seven kills.
Set Two: Pitt 16, Penn State 25
The Nittany Lions knotted the match at a set apiece after defeating Pitt 25-16 in set two.
After back and forth points to open the frame, three straight attacks by Penn State gave the home team a 12-7 lead. Pitt called a timeout to regroup but fell behind even more and was forced to use its second timeout as the Nittany Lions held a seven-point lead, 17-10.
The Panthers were unable to catch Penn State, who remained ahead through the rest of the set.
Set Three: Pitt 13, Penn State 25
Pitt trailed 2-1 following the third set after falling to the Nittany Lions 25-13 in the third set.
The Panthers struggled from the start, quickly falling behind 6-1. Pitt called its first timeout to try and stifle Penn State but struggled to keep up with the Nittany Lions who doubled their total and gained a 12-5 advantage.
Pitt was unable to chip away at Penn State’s lead through the final points of the set.
Set Four: Pitt 18, Penn State 25
The Panthers season came to a close following a 25-18 loss in the fourth set.
For the second straight frame, Pitt fell behind early 12-5, but the Panthers continued to battle through the midway point of the match.
Pitt pulled within four of Penn State, 20-16, after a Nittany Lion attack error and a Seman ace but Penn State called a timeout to regroup and returned to score three straight to lead 23-16.
The Panthers were able to fight off a single match point before giving up a final kill to end the game.