Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer
No. 6 Pitt volleyball made a huge statement Friday night, sweeping No. 4 Penn State in Happy Valley to preserve its undefeated season and snap a 16-match losing streak to the Nittany Lions.
Pitt (11-0), came into Friday’s match looking for the program’s first win at Penn State since 1980. Most recently, the Nittany Lions ended Pitt’s season in the NCAA Tournament in 2016 and 2017.
The Panthers swiftly handed the Nittany Lions (6-2) their second loss of the season.
Pitt set the tone for the night early, jumping out to a large first-set lead. The Panthers front line outperformed Penn State’s by a large margin, finishing the set with 16 kills. Pitt’s first-set hitting percentage of .464 greatly outpaced Penn State’s .152. An attack error from sophomore Jonni Parker gave the Panthers the first set by a score of 25-17.
The second set again featured the Panthers putting on a display of efficiency while the Nittany Lions failed to establish a connection. This time, Penn State sported an even worse hitting percentage, .118, while Pitt hit at a fitting clip of .412. The Panthers’ tall front also led Penn State in blocks 6-2 after two sets. Penn State’s serving proved very sloppy in the second set, with five service errors contributing to Pitt winning the set 25-21.
With their backs against the wall, the Nittany Lions desperately tried to keep up with Pitt in the third set. Although Pitt’s level of play went down, Penn State didn’t step up much. Both teams combined for 16 attack errors in the third set, nearly as many as the first two sets combined. With Pitt serving for match point up 24-18, Penn State finally found some success, winning the next five points to cut the lead to one. Junior Kayla Lund, who led the Panthers with 14 kills on the night, stopped the run with a vicious attack to give the Panthers the 25-23 set — and match — win.
The 3-0 victory ended Pitt’s lengthy losing streak to Penn State and gives the Panthers momentum for when the two teams rematch this Sunday, 1 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center. If Pitt wins that match for the series sweep, the Panthers could have a legitimate shot at the top spot when the national rankings are released on Monday.