PITTSBURGH — Pitt volleyball failed to make the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year after they were stunned by Cincinnati in a five-set thriller on Saturday at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the fifth set, and the home crowd at Petersen Events Center got on their feet and expressed their appreciation. But after a Bearcats timeout, they scored five straight themselves and carried the momentum to upset the Panthers 15-13 in the final set.
Jordan Thompson (27 kills) and Maria Mallon (19 kills) carried the Bearcats (27-6, 15-1 AAC) throughout the nearly three-hour match.
ACC Player of the Year Kayla Lund stepped up in a significant way for Pitt. It seemed as if every one of her (20) kills and (14) digs were at the most convenient time.
Pitt trailed 23-22 in the first set before they got two ferocious blocks from sophomore Sabrina Starks. They held a 25-24 lead, and then the Bearcats were called for a setting error on the Panthers game-winner.
In set two, Cincinnati got some separation and stole a set from the Panthers. Outside hitter Jordan Thompson and middle blocker Adria Oliver had 14 and 10 kills respectively through two sets for the Bearcats.
Cincinnati couldn’t match the depth of the Panthers, and their high-powered offense simmered in the third set. Pitt cruised to a 25-16 win. Lund, Chinaza Ndee, and Layne Van Buskirk each had 10-plus kills through three sets.
The Bearcats jumped out to a 13-7 lead and held their advantage for the remainder of the fourth set and forced the determining fifth set with a berth to the Sweet 16 on the line.
The Panthers’ depth was evident, as they had several solid performances all-around. Ndee (16 kills), Van Buskirk (13 kills) Stephanie Williams (14 kills), Alexis Akeo (58 assists and 11 digs), Sabrina Starks (5 blocks) and Hali Hillegas (18 digs).
Cincinnati advances to face No. 11 seeded Penn State in the Sweet 16.
Pitt ends its season with a 30-2 overall record.