Pitt’s historic season ends in 3-2 loss to Michigan


Sarah Cutshall | Senior Staff Photographer

Junior Nika Markovic had 19 kills during Michigan’s 3-2 defeat of Pitt during the second round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday night.

Isabelle Glatts and Sarah Cutshall

By Tessa Sayers, Assistant Sports Editor

For the third straight season, Pitt’s NCAA Tournament dreams died in the second round. This year, Michigan dealt the final blow in its 3-2 victory Saturday night at the Peterson Events Center.

After a dominant 25-19 Pitt win in the first set, the Wolverines battled back to win the second and third sets, 25-22 and 25-17, respectively, to take a 2-1 lead. The Panthers refused to quit, winning the third set 25-21 and sending the game into a fifth set.

“As you can tell, this was two pretty evenly matched opponents,” Pitt head coach Dan Fisher said. “I thought we showed a lot of heart tonight… I thought we gained some momentum, ultimately we just dug a little too big of a hole in the fifth set to overcome.”

Michigan used a 9-0 run in the fifth set to take an 11-4  and come away with the 15-9 win, ending Pitt’s historic season.

“I thought it was a great match,” Michigan head coach Mark Rosen said. “I’m really proud of how our team fought and made adjustments throughout the match… I really liked how our team competed, especially in the fifth set.”

The Wolverines used nine Pitt attack errors and a game high 10 blocks to their advantage in the fifth set. It also helped that when the Panthers got the ball, they weren’t able to capitalize on opportunities, hitting in the negative percentiles.

The Panthers were playing without their leading outside hitter sophomore Kayla Lund, who left Friday’s game with an ankle injury.

“Zoi [Faki] had a really good game, who stepped in for her,” Fisher said. “We had been playing one way for pretty much the whole year, so we were in the comfort of playing in the same system. I think it matters, but I don’t know how much.”

Lund’s injury didn’t seem to affect the Panthers in the first set when Pitt took an early 2-1 and held it until the end. The Panthers had 13 kills on 46 attempts, 3 blocks and 25 digs in the first set and benefited from seven Michigan attack errors and a Wolverine .065 hitting percentage.

Michigan went on a 2-0 run after an attack error by redshirt sophomore Zoi Faki and a kill from Katarina Glavinic made the score 8-7, the closest it would get.

Faki, who stepped in the replace Lund, finished the day with 12 kills, including three in the first set.

Junior Nika Markovic led Pitt with 19 kills. Michigan senior Carly Skjodt led both teams with 20 kills.

Michigan battled back and had 27 kills in the two sets combined, adding a .458 hitting percentage in the third set.

Pitt had 27 kills during those sets, but a .192 hitting percentage in the third set. The Panthers had 10 attack errors and six receiving errors in the second and third sets combined.

“When we get in those tough situations we try to go back to ‘Pitt Good,’” redshirt senior libero Angela Seman said. “I think we got a little too amped in certain situations… we were being a little hectic on plays we usually calm down, and I think it was just the emotions got the best of us in some situations.”

After making a change to its rotation and with the game on the line, Pitt found its rhythm first in the fourth set. In order to adjust to the Wolverines the Panthers went into a 6-2 formation – one they haven’t played in much this season.

After a back and forth start, Pitt went on a 4-0 run to make the score 14-12. Michigan went on a 2-0 run to tie things back at 14, but Pitt answered with another big run to make the score 17-14.

The Pitt players had to silence the “Let’s go Pitt” cheers from the fans as Faki stepped to the service line with a chance to put Pitt up 20-16.  

Michigan fought to get back within one point, but Pitt won the next volley on a Stephanie’s William’s kill to pull ahead 22-20.

William’s finished the day with eight kills for the Panthers. After losing the next point, Pitt won the next three volleys to send the game into a do-or-die fifth set.

“I think it’s a team that’s overcome adversity a lot all year,” Fisher said. “We’ve been down a lot in a lot of matches and found a way to battle back.”

Ultimately, it wasn’t enough and the Wolverine’s came away with the win. The Wolverine’s finished with 58 total kills, a .221 hitting percentage and seven service aces. Pitt finished its final game of the season with 62 kills, a .181 hitting percentage and three service aces.

Despite the loss, this was the Panther’s first time winning more than two sets in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Pitt also finished its 30-win season with the best record and most wins since 1990.

“I told the team how proud I was and what a great season it was,” Fisher said. “It’s hard to keep it in perspective, but a 30-win season is pretty special, but I know right now it just stings a lot… but I really enjoyed coaching this team.”