Pitt’s volleyball season ends with loss to Michigan in NCAA Tournament
Angela Seman knew things weren’t right for Pitt women’s volleyball team. The senior libero felt everything was out of sorts in front of a crowd of 2,407 on Saturday at Petersen Events Center.
All of those situations compounded into issues that halted the Panthers’ season.
What was a historic weekend for the Pitt ended with a thud. The No. 11 Panthers hit .181 and were upended by No. 18 Michigan 3-2 (19-25, 25-22, 25-17, 21-25, 15-9) during the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Pitt committed 29 attack errors and only attempted 27 attacks in the third set.
“It’s hard to say because our entire team, when we get in those situations, we try to go back to good Pitt,” said Pitt senior libero Angela Seman, who finished tied for a team high with 23 digs. “I think we got a little too amped in certain situations. We were digging a little too high. We were being hectic on plays we usually calm down.”
The Panthers (30-2) entered the weekend hoping to parlay hosting the first two rounds of the tournament for the first time into their first appearance in the Sweet 16.
But missing their kill leader — outside hitter Kayla Lund was out with a leg injury — and plagued by communication issues, Pitt never seemed in sync.
Panthers coach Dan Fisher knew Lund being out had an impact, but he couldn’t put his finger on what it was. Pitt did have balance. Nika Markovic (19 kills), Zoi Faki (12), Layne Van Buskirk (10) and Chinaza Ndee (10) all finished in double figures.
“At the end of the match, we were in a lineup we hadn’t been in much all this year,” Fisher said. “In the fourth set, we made a switch to a 6-2. I thought we gained some momentum. Ultimately, we dug too deep of a hole in the fifth set to overcome.”
The Wolverines (22-9) were at their best on the attack when it mattered most. Michigan, which improved to 3-7 against ranked opponents, committed one hitting error in the fifth set.
Two kills from Carly Skjodt and six attack errors by Pitt led to an 8-0 run that put the Wolverines ahead 11-3.
Skjodt led Michigan with 20 kills, and Paige Jones finished with 20.
“The fifth set was a gut-check a little bit,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “We had seven blocks in that set. That was a great testament to how hard our kids played.”
Pitt cut the lead to 13-9 following a kill from Buskirk, but the Panthers would get no closer. Michigan put pressure on Pitt by winning the second and third set.
After the Panthers’ offense unraveled in the third set, Pitt played its best stretch to force a fifth set.
Despite earning a reprieve, and a chance to take the fifth set, the Panthers couldn’t close the deal.
“It’s hard to keep it in perspective, but a 30-win season is pretty special,” Fisher said. “I know right now it stings a lot for this group. We had a wonderful group of seniors and I appreciated coaching this team.”
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.