Pitt volleyball sweeps Boston College, bouncing back from initial losses

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Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Pitt swept Boston College 3-0 on Saturday, the Panthers’ 36th consecutive win at the Fitzgerald Field House

By Henry Jackson, Staff Writer

In a year fraught with uncertainty, the No. 11 Pitt women’s volleyball team has returned to their refreshing consistency. The Panthers’ two victories over Boston College this weekend extended the team’s winning streak at Fitzgerald Field House to 36, and improved Pitt to 2-2 on the season.

The Panthers came into their matchup against Boston College looking for answers. The team suffered a pair of ugly road losses against Syracuse last weekend, and did not appear at all like their 2019 selves.

Fitzgerald Field House seemed to provide the needed boost. Pitt immediately found its old form Friday night, attacking Boston College ferociously out the gate, quickly gaining a 9-2 lead in the first game. Backed by a stellar six kills from senior outside hitter Kayla Lund, the team hit an unstoppable .522 in the first frame to handily win the set 25-9.

Boston College responded in the second set by going up early, and then maintaining that lead throughout to win the set 19-25. The Panthers performance was somewhat lackluster, but it would prove Boston College’s only real bright spot in the series.

With the match tied 1-1 going into the third set, both teams ramped up their effort. The final two sets became a pitched battle, with Pitt and Boston College trading both great plays and mistakes in equal measures. Ultimately, the more talented Panthers gained the upper hand and pulled ahead late in both sets to win the match comfortably.

With their first win under their belts, Pitt only increased the intensity on Saturday. In the first set, Lund spearheaded an absolute tour-de-force, seeing the Panthers command a stunning 16-5 advantage on kills to win the set 25-10. Boston College was simply overwhelmed, struggling even to create satisfactory first passes.

But once again, Boston College clawed its way back in the second set. The Eagles managed to win a distinct height advantage at the net, and utilized a string of successful blocks to protect a slight lead. But senior right side hitter Chinaza Ndee simply refused to give up, encouraging her teammates to stay cool and delivering two powerful kills late to ice the set. Despite hitting only .143, the Panthers managed to win the second set 25-23 — aided by the team’s veteran leadership.

After losing such a close set, the Eagles struggled to find answers in the third. Ndee and Lund put on an absolute clinic, and junior middle blocker Sabrina Starks showed off her height to get a few dominant blocks. Pitt outdid itself to combine for 22 kills in the set, and despite a sputtering Eagles run in garbage time, the Panthers won the set 25-19 to clinch the 3-0 victory.

Without a doubt, Pitt’s dominant play against Boston College can be attributed to the team’s remarkable depth. Despite losing three All-ACC honorees last season, the team is still stacked, and head coach Dan Fisher’s nationally ranked recruiting class of 2019 is coming to fruition. With so much young talent on the court, Pitt holds a unique advantage over other programs — especially in the long matches. 

The team also benefits from a wealth of veteran leadership, with captains Lund and Ndee guiding their teammates on the court. Lund was absolutely stellar all weekend, blitzing the Eagles for a combined 41 kills, and is on pace to go down as the best player in program history. Ndee was equally impressive, putting the team on her back in the crucial second set Saturday, and ultimately providing 17 kills Saturday.

Besides providing leadership on the court, having a talented pair of captains is crucial in a year as strange as 2020. Players were forced to train alone in the offseason, and the team was deprived of valuable practice time along with a preseason. As a result, Pitt opened the season shakily, but quickly built confidence once the team found a rhythm.

The psychological effects of playing in an empty stadium also changed the gameday experience. Both team’s benches stayed animated throughout the series, yet the lack of fans left a strange, unsettling feeling. The Panthers still managed to benefit from their home court advantage, but it’s impossible not to wonder what this team would’ve looked like in front of a crowd.

Pitt’s performance against Boston College should signify a return to dominance. Like so many other powerhouse programs in every sport, the Panthers seemed out-of-sorts in their first few games, yet still managed to recover quickly. Pitt will receive another opportunity to extend its win streak Friday at Notre Dame.

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