9/6/21: Status of Pitt’s Women’s Volleyball

Here is a great and detailed look at the Panther’s volleyball team from John in South Carolina…

This weekend the Pitt Panther Women’s Volleyball team finally get to play at home after winning their first five matches on the road.  So how are our Panthers doing so far after facings some tough competition?  They are undefeated!  They have won all five of their matches.  They are currently ranked in a tie for 4th in the AVCA poll this week.  Here is a recap of how they managed to get to that record and ranking in case you have not been paying attention.

The first weekend of the season Pitt traveled down to Columbia, South Carolina to participate in the Carolina Classic tournament.  Pitt, who was ranked at #9 in the preseason AVCA poll, took on #23 Rice in their season opener.  The match went to five sets after Rice won the 4th set.  Pitt got behind right from the start in the deciding 5th set that goes only to 15 points with the mandatory two-point win.  Pitt looked to start their season with a loss when they got behind 9-4. 

By that point in the set Pitt had used both of their timeouts and things looked fairly bleak.  Pitt furiously rallied at this point and tied the score at 13-13.  There was another tie at 14 before Pitt won the last two points, the set, and the match with a score of 16-14.  This match was an indicator of things to come the following weekend.

The second match of the weekend was a morning match the next day against #18 Washington State.  Pitt lost the first set of the match and were having some difficulty in the 2nd set when Coach Fisher made a change to his lineup.  Pitt won the next three sets and the match 3-1.

In the last and final match of the weekend Pitt played host South Carolina the evening of the same day of the Washington State match.  At the time Pitt played South Carolina, USC (east) was unranked.  Previous to their match USC had also defeated both Rice and Washington State on their home court.  Pitt using the same lineup that proved so lethal against WSU swept South Carolina 3-0.  South Carolina did make the last set very interesting as Pitt won it 25-23.  South Carolina entered the poll the next weekend and currently stand at #24 and are the 4th highest ranked SEC team.

After their showing at South Carolina Pitt moved up to #7 in the polls but there was some questioning their ranking based on the problems they had with Rice.  Rice fell out of the rankings after losing to both Pitt and South Carolina.

This past weekend Pitt traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee on a recon trip for our football team.  While there they decided to play #9 Baylor and the home town Volunteers.  Against Baylor Pitt again was forced into a 5th set.  Again, Coach Fisher made adjustment to his lineup as the match unfolded.  This time it was Pitt who had to win the 4th set to force the deciding 5th set. 

This time Pitt actually had one point leads at the beginning until things start going south right after the score was tied at 5-5.  Baylor ran off four straight points and Pitt found themselves down 5-9 against the #9 team in the nation.  After Pitt’s 2nd and last timeout Pitt rallied to tie the score at 9.  The lead then went back and forth until the score was tied at 11-11.  Pitt then ran off the last 4 points to win the set and match with a 15-11 score.

The next day Pitt faced hometown Tennessee.  Tennessee had beaten Baylor the day before Pitt’s win over them.  The home team was coming into the match with two days rest to Pitt’s single day.  Tennessee had been receiving votes in the polls prior to the weekend and were sure to enter the polls the following week regardless of the results against Pitt.  Tennessee proved to be a very worthy opponent giving Pitt everything they could handle. 

The match went to five sets after Tennessee won the fourth set Pitt was taken to 28-26 in the 3rd set.  Pitt and Tennessee slugged it out in the 5th set with the last tie being at 7-7.  Pitt took the lead for good at 8-7 and ran off the last three points to win the set and match at 15-10.  For their effort over this past weekend Tennessee was rewarded with a #23 ranking in the polls.  Tennessee is the third highest ranked SEC team in the polls.  Coach Fisher again juggled his lineup during the match using Pitt’s depth to his advantage.

So now that we have some matches played, how good are these Panthers?  Does this team have the potential of again making a run in the NCAA tournament?  To answer the first question our Panthers are very good.  All five of their opponents were either ranked when they played them or are currently ranked.  Coach Fisher has packed his pre-conference with tournament teams and they have responded well. 

The team also have shown a lot of grit, twice snatching victories when things looked pretty bleak.  Pitt has beaten the 3rd and 4th best teams in the SEC on their home courts.  They have beaten the 2nd best team in the Big 12 at a neutral site.

Last year Pitt barely missed making it to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament.  If Washington had played this current team, Pitt would have won that match in 4 sets and would have made it to the Final Four.  I believe Pitt is a bona fide top four team in the nation.

How should Pitt do in the ACC?  There are only two other legitimate contenders for the ACC title beside Pitt.  We will know more about #10 Louisville after this weekend.  They play the best team in the SEC, #7 Florida first and then #6 Purdue from the Big 10.  Presently I believe they are the 2nd best team in the ACC. 

The 3rd best team is #21 Georgia Tech and is a sleeper team.  Ga. Tech has a win over then #12 Penn State.  They did lose to #16 UCLA this past weekend so they do have some weaknesses.  Pitt plays both of these teams twice under the new ACC scheduling criteria so the three of them will settle the title on the court.  Notre Dame that was ranked in the preseason has been a big disappointment this far into the season. 

Most of the rest of the ACC have been playing cupcakes in the preseason to pad their records or build team confidence.  Do not be fooled by their records as come conference time, the three top ACC teams put the standings in their correct order.

Pitt plays #13 BYU this weekend along with Bowling Green and High Point in the Panther Challenge.  BYU is going to be another stiff test for the Panthers.  All games are on the ACCDN.