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Pitt Volleyball

Cat Flood’s Emergence and Pitt’s Serving Propelling Them into the Final Four Once Again

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Pitt defeated Wisconsin in five sets in the Elite Eight last Saturday night to make it back-to-back appearances in the Final Four.

The Panthers saw many players make great moments throughout the match. This includes graduate right side hitter Courtney Buzzerio making a team-high 18 kills in the win and sophomore setter Rachel Fairbanks playing another all-around game for a double-double in assists and digs.

It also featured graduate middle blocker Serena Gray with a team-high four total blocks and redshirt junior outside hitter Valeria Vasquez Gomez with a double-double in 11 kills and 22 digs, a fourth of a program record 88 digs in an NCAA Tournament game.

While those players made vital moments, redshirt junior outside hitter Cat Flood made a name for herself on Twitter for her play in the match.

Flood is a serve specialist or serve sub for Pitt. She doesn’t play as often as most of the other players do. Instead, she features at crucial times where she helps to put Pitt in an advantageous position or earn a service ace.

She made a team-high three service aces, which ties for the third most in an NCAA Tournament game for a Panther.

Her play made her a fan favorite, with her focused demeanor and streaking half-and-half, white and black hair that strikes fear into opposing players. Comparable to Cruella de Vil and the fear she put into the 101 Dalmatians.

As a team, the Panthers used their serving to build momentum and ultimately defeat the Badgers. They made eight service aces to just four service errors, while the Badgers made just four service aces to nine service errors.

Fairbanks, who leads the Panthers in service aces in 2022, and Gray, who has worked on her service technique since joining the program in 2021, each added two service aces in the Panthers’ victory over the Badgers.

It is unusual to see Pitt serve as well as they have in 2022. They have 173 service aces to 172 service errors and their opponents have 124 service aces to 222 service errors.

Service aces are also just one part of a great serving team. The goal for most teams is to use the serve to make teams play out of system.

A team playing fully in system means that their receive pass or dig is good enough to allow them multiple passing options. This creates more and better opportunities to score, than if a team is out of system.

If a team is out of system, they either made a poor dig or a poor pass off the serve. This leads to scrambling from players and bad/less opportunities to score points.

It also usually sees the setter only having one passing option, instead of multiple ones. The setter receiving the first pass also is another example of a team playing out of system.

Essentially, if a team forces the opposing setter to have few options to pass, then that team creates opportunities for themselves to take advantage of mistakes and score points.

While Flood is the primary serve specialist, first-year libero/defensive specialist Dillyn Griffin also sees time as the backup. She provides a different, left-handed serve that moves quicker and more linear than most serves on the team.

Outside of the serve specialists, the exceptional depth of Pitt allows them to force teams to play out of system right from the serve.

Graduate outside hitter Cam Ennis, who has started in place over sophomore outside hitter Julianna Dalton, played important moments down the stretch for Pitt.

After seeing her strike blocked and Wisconsin taking a 13-12 lead fifth set, she needed to bounce back. Buzzerio made a kill that tied it up at 13 and allowed Ennis to serve and to do just that.

Ennis served twice and both times, she forced a poor dig from Wisconsin libero, first-year Grace Guctekin, making them play out of system. This created great opportunities from Pitt as both Vasquez Gomez and Buzzerio made two kills to take down Wisconsin, 15-13, in that fifth set.

“This team has been the best serving ever, in terms of command of serve, being able to hit spots and minimizing service errors,” Panthers head coach Dan Fisher said at a press conference on Monday. “But I do say that with some trepidation because last year I think we had 12 service errors against Nebraska [in the Final Four]. I think there is a different energy, but assuming we serve to our norm, it’s a big part of the game to be able to consistently put pressure on the other team with every server, and then also to minimize terminal serves.”

Pitt needs their serve to be effective once again as they take on Louisville Thursday night in Omaha, Neb. in the Final Four. If they manage to have a good service ace-to-service error ratio and force Louisville to play out of system, Pitt has a great chance make it to their first National Championship game ever.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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GoPitt!
GoPitt!
1 month ago

This article was foretelling – unfortunately it was their struggle with serve receive which killed Pitt last night 🙁

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