Volleyball Drops a Close Contest
Volleyball couldn't quite get over the hump and close out the contest in front of a raucous crowd of almost 9,000 in the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.
Pitt achieved the reverse sweep, 25-19, 26-24, 24-26, 21-25, 15-17. With three sets including bonus points, you know it was a close one, also notice that both teams scored the same number of overall points, fitting given just how evenly matched these teams have been over the past years. Even the Pitt pre-match hype video highlighted just how evenly matched these teams have been over the years, from conference championships (and a lot of those being co-championships), All-Americans, Final Fours, and more.
Pitt got the crowd going from the start, with a 3-0 lead to start out the first set, but it quickly settled into a back and forth with neither team even being able to gain a comfortable lead throughout the match. The Cards were able to string together a couple of small 3-0 runs late in the first set to eek out the largest set win of the match, mostly silencing the crowd.
While they wouldn't get the initial 3-0 run, Pitt again looked to be in-charge early in the second set, using a 4-0 run to claim a 7-2 lead. Louisville would return the favor with Brigitta Petrenko at the service line, closing down the Panther lead 8-7. Pitt edged out a bit more lead over the ensuing few points, getting to 15-11 before a series of 17 straight side outs, fast forwarded the set to 23-19 with no effective change in the lead. Even that was short lived, however, as UofL would only get two points on Pitt hitting errors before Pitt would get to set point at 24-21. No lead would be safe in this match, however with Louisville ripping off a 5-0 run with Elle Glock serving, to again silence the crowd and take the second set win.
After the break, UofL had to feel like they had a slight edge in a battle for the ages, and a 5-2 lead in the third set supported that, but neither team would be able to get a lead greater than three points in the third. Pitt got their first set point on a UofL serving error, but UofL would hold it off with an Aiko Jones kill before Pitt would get the next two for their first set win.
In the fourth, Pitt would put together a 6-0 run to take a 14-10 lead and putting Louisville on the backfoot. The Cards would claw their way back into it getting back to within one point at 21-22, but Pitt scored three straight to tied the match at 2-2 and forcing the fifth set sprint.
I suspect Pitt was very aware of the last five-set match between these two teams in last year's National Semifinals that Louisville won by a 15-2 margin. And up to the side switch, it looked like it might be another lopsided margin...not 15-2 lopsided, but with an 8-4 Louisville lead at the switch, you could imagine the Panthers were not feeling great. Pitt would put together a four point run to make it a new ballgame at 10-10. Again, the team would exchange side outs, advancing the scoreboard to 14-14 with no meaningful change of fate for the teams. With about the closest thing you can get to sudden death in volleyball, Pitt would get the next point the 15-14 lead, before Louisville would again hold off the match point on an Aiko Jones kill before Pitt would go on to win on a pair of Louisville attack errors.
Louisville lead the match in just about every statistical category including hitting percentage at .315 vs Pitt's .265. The only stat category that Pitt won was service aces at 5-3. But, yet, Pitt emerged the victor because it's about sets won, not points won, or blocks, or digs, or any other stat.
With .404 hitting at 29 kills, Anna DeBeer definitely wasn't "Not Found", and Charitie Luper was a not far beyond with 24 kills to hit .327. Cara Cresse and Aiko Jones each contributed eight kills. Phekran "PK" Kong was a factor at the net with a solo and five shared blocks. Elena Scott, unsurprisingly, led with 24 digs, but DeBeer wasn't far behind with 17, Luper claimed 13, and Aiko Jones picked up 10.
So Louisville is likely out of contention for the conference championship. The current standings show us with the same number of wins as Pitt and Florida State at the top of the standings, but they each have a game in hand. Pitt doesn't have a complete cakewalk to the end of the season with Miami on Wednesday, though the Panthers are clearly the favorites to win that one. Once that hurdle is cleared, then they get a Syracuse team on Friday that is winless in conference, and nearly winless overall to coast across the line. Florida State has already gotten over their Miami hurdle, leaving only North Carolina, and Notre Dame which really shouldn't be challenges for Florida State. All of this means it's likely that Pitt and FSU end the season as co-champions.
The Cards still have a challenge on the schedule, with Georgia Tech coming to LNFCU on Wednesday at 5pm, where they will be looking for a touch of revenge over the Yellowjackets.
Basketball vs Bucknell
Basketball gets a bit of a later start than usual, tipping at 4pm due to national TV coverage on the ACC Network, against the Bucknell Bison.
Bucknell arrives at the KFC Yum! Center with a pair of losses, and a single win. Penn State and Temple both beat up on the Bison, with Temple getting a 24 point win, 77-53, while Penn State completely dominated them with a 43 point margin, 94-51. The Bison are coming in to today's game off of their only win, against Fairleigh Dickinson, 49-44.
We've talked about the question marks with the Louisville team in the leadup to the season, particularly with regards to all of the "new" faces on the team that would need time to gel together. It appears as if they are doing so quickly, and today should be another game to help that process along.
As mentioned, this is a 4pm start on ACC Network linear and streaming. If you pull it up on the TV, you'll get Sam Ravech on play by play, and Kelly Gramlich for color...not a bad pair in my estimation, but of course you can also turn to the radio on 970am and get the excellent call of Nick Curran with Courtnee Walton for play by play.
(TODAY'S PHOTOS BY JARED ANDERSON)
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast
|(HOW COME I NEVER GET INVITED TO BE ON THE PODCAST?)|
There was no live component yesterday as I was up in the Steel City hoping to cheer the Cards on to victory against Pitt, alas. But Jared, Case, and Paulie held down the fort, got the recording despite some technical challenges, and brought some great coverage wrapping up Field Hockey for the year, and covering the ongoing situations with Volleyball and Basketball.
Check it out at: