Pitt’s WVB Final Four Opponent: Louisville

May be an image of 3 people, people playing sports and indoorEditor’s Note: Here is the Victory Dance Party after the Wisky win...

As I stated in the opening our next opponent is very familiar, Louisville.  For the first time ever, the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament will have an ACC team in the finals.  The ACC’s Louisville and Pitt are only the two teams that have made it to the semifinals the last two years.  In fact, prior to these appearances only one ACC team, Florida State in 2011, was the only other ACC team to make the semifinals.  For the first time ever there are no Big Ten or Pac 12 teams in the Final Four.

Louisville is 30-2.  They lost to Ohio State at home 1-3 in addition to their 2-3 defeat at Pitt.  One win of note in the OOC is their defeat of San Diego 3-1 at home.  San Diego defeated Pitt 3-2 at a neutral site.  Both Pitt and Louisville were taken to 5 sets by Georgia Tech, Pitt at home and Louisville in Atlanta.  Louisville had to reverse sweep Georgia Tech in Atlanta to win as they got down 0-2.

Louisville was a #1 seed in the tournament and played at home all the way through the regional.  Louisville in the tournament swept their first three opponents: Samford, Purdue, and Baylor.  Against their last opponent, Oregon, they were taken to five sets.  Oregon had a chance to take them out in four sets with a match point at 24-23 but were unable to do it.  They eventually lost the set 25-27.  Louisville then blew them out in the fifth set 15-6.  Louisville’s coach believes that her team is better conditioned than most teams and that shows up in long matches.

The last time Pitt played Louisville they thoroughly throttled the Panthers in three sets at Louisville.  It solidified Louisville’s number 1 seed.  The score in each set were 15-25, 21-25, and 18-25.  Pitt did not look like ACC co-champions during the match.  It was this match that cost Pitt a number one seed in the tournament even though they were in the top 4 in RPI at the end of the season!

In this match the most dangerous Louisville player #14 OH 6’0” Jr. Anna DeBeer only played in the back row as they worked her back into the lineup.  This was due to a leg injury she suffered during the OOC part of the schedule in a match after the Ohio State loss.  DeBeer did not play in the loss to Pitt earlier in the season.  DeBeer is now playing on the front row as well as in the back row.  Julianna Dalton played in the match and had a subpar showing.  She was probably already playing with a nagging injury at this point in the season.  She would play out the rest of the regular season before being put on the sideline due to it.

While DeBeer does not show up in the overall season Louisville stats as a potent force, make no mistake she is the leader of this team even though #9 OH 6’0” Grad Student Claire Chaussee was the ACC player of the year.  Louisville runs a 5-1 offense with #22 6’0” graduate student Raquel Lazaro as their setter.

Louisville is not as tall as Pitt’s last opponent, Wisconsin but just as lethal.  Pitt’s smaller, more active lineup maybe an asset against them.  After the Louisville blowout, I wonder if Coach Fisher came to the same conclusion in deciding to go to the current lineup for the tournament.  Fisher may also regret using an injured Kayla Lund in last year’s tournament given that Nebraska keyed on her the entire match in our loss to them.  He may have had to tie Lund to a chair, though, to keep her out of the match.

Louisville’s points leaders are Chaussee with 4.09, #15 MB 6’2” Aiko Jones with 3.40, #25 MB 6’3” Sr. Amaya Tillman with 3.24, Debeer with 2.74, #3 OH 6’0” Rs-Jr Nena Mbonu, and #10 MB 6’4” Jr Phekran pk Kong.  Louisville’s block leaders are Tillman with 157, Jones with 100, Kong with 93 and Lazard, their setter, with 91.

So, what are the keys to Pitt reversing what happened in the past at UL’s house and making sure we win this rubber match with Louisville?

First we must eliminate errors both in hitting and serve receive.  We had 22 hitting errors in the 3-set match or over 7 per set.  A team is not going to win many sets with that many.  The second thing is serve receive errors.  Louisville had 8 aces or almost 3 per set.  This is the match where the libero jersey would be taken from Browske and given to Klika.  Between these two types of errors Pitt was giving up 10 points per set!

The second thing we need to do is serve well and keep Louisville out of system.  At the regionals Pitt served extremely well.  Even though DeBeer has a brace on her leg she is an excellent defensive player.  I do not expect Pitt to serve at her.  In the blowout loss, Pitt had one ace versus four errors.

The last things we need to do is block better.  This chore is going to fall on all our front-line players but especially our middles and Buzzerio.  Louisville is not extremely tall so it is just a matter of defending the net.  That is easier said than done.

The current lineup of the team being used in the tournament has shown a lot of grit.  Even if Julianna Dalton is almost 100% I hope Coach Fisher does not put her in the lineup as a starter.  It would destroy the current chemistry of the team.

This is going to be just as tough as a match as the Wisconsin one was.  Louisville really took it to Pitt the last time they met.  Pitt needs to put that match out of their minds and get in the same mindset as they had at Wisconsin!

Hail to Pitt!

Fight Pitt Fight!

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