Road woes continue for Pitt volleyball in weekend losses


Amanda Orchard prepares for a spike. Heather Tennant | Staff Photographer

Pitt’s volleyball team can’t handle its homesickness this season.

After dropping two matches over the weekend at Virginia Tech and Virginia, the Panthers have sunk to 1-4 in road matches this season despite an otherwise solid 12-4 record.

The Panthers (12-4, 2-2 ACC) traveled to Virginia this week to face a 10-4 Virginia Tech team on Wednesday and a 9-4 Virginia squad on Friday night to finish up their road trip. Both matches resulted in the same outcome, a 3-1 Panthers loss.

To start the week, Pitt came out of the gates firing in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 at Virginia Tech. The Panthers hit a solid .481 as a team in the first set, making accurate and effective hits. But the Hokies nearly matched their offensive firepower and hit .469 as a team and maintained a steady lead, winning the set 25-19.

The second set was sloppy with both teams’ offensive efficiency faltering. Pitt capitalized on Virginia Tech’s mistakes and stretched the lead as far as 22-14. The Panthers eventually took the second set 25-19.

Senior middle hitter Amanda Orchard said the team “really tried to get at them and block [Virginia Tech’s two outside hitters]” to slow the Hokies down in the second set. This strategy paid off, as the team held Virginia Tech to a combined eight kills in the set.

Virginia Tech rejuvenated its offense as it hit .378 in the third set and .316 in the fourth. The Panthers could not match its offensive efficiency, hitting at least .100 less than the Hokies in each set.

This disparity was evident in the third set as the Panthers never tied or held a lead. Virginia Tech started out the set with a 5-0 advantage and held tight, winning the set 25-22.

Pitt put up a tough fight in the fourth set, jumping out to a 14-7 lead. From that point, Virginia Tech responded and eventually pushed the match to 24 apiece. Two Pitt errors ended the set in a 26-24 Hokie win and a 3-1 match victory.

Virginia Tech’s relentless hitting and accuracy simply overwhelmed the Panthers in the match.

Graduate transfer outside hitter Kadi Kullerkann had a team-high 14 kills in the set, but she said the team’s defense in blocking could have been stronger.

“I think we just struggled with the blocks and getting the blocker to the right spot,” she said. This was evident in junior outside hitter Lindsey Owens, who had a whopping 20 kills for the Hokies.

Still, Pitt had to move on from this tough loss in its Friday night matchup against Virginia, as it had another road match two days later. This second match against Virginia was neck and neck, with no team winning a set by more than four points.

Pitt came out to an early advantage in the first set, but the Cavaliers responded to take a 23-15 lead. From this point, the Panthers surged, winning 12 of the next 14 points to take the back-and-forth first set 27-25.

This momentum carried over to the next frame with Pitt taking an early 14-5 lead — but Virginia quickly made up its deficit, winning the next nine points to tie the match at 14. A late push from the Cavaliers put them over the top, earning a 25-21 second set win.

In a tight third set, the Panthers outhit the Cavaliers .216 to .189. Still, it remained a very close set and an eventual Virginia victory at 27-25. Two out of Virginia’s final three points to win the match were on Pitt errors.

“Truthfully, I think they got a few breaks,” head coach Dan Fisher said. “They had one player [Kayla Sears] who went on a really long jump serving run that really ended up hurting us.”

The Panthers responded well in the fourth and final set. They went back and forth with Virginia and held a 26-25 lead with an opportunity to win the set, but gave away the chance late with sloppy play. The Cavaliers, as they did earlier, won the next three points, two of which were on Panther errors. They won the set 28-26 and the match 3-1.

“[The third set] was tough to swallow, because we hit for a higher percentage, had more blocks and more digs than them,” Fisher said. “It’s always hard to lose game like that, but I was just extremely proud of the effort we put in, and I don’t think we left anything on the table.”

Orchard said the team is not far off from turning these losses into victories.

“We’ve just got to come together as a team,” Orchard said. “If each individual can get 1 percent better, I think we’ll be right there.”

Pitt will put these improvements to the test in future away matches, the next coming against Syracuse on Friday at 7 p.m. and against Boston College on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Leave a comment.