No. 5 Pitt volleyball did not have the season opener they wanted to, as No. 17 BYU dominated them for a win in four sets Friday afternoon at the Ellesyn Invitational in Missoula, Mont.
The Panthers (0-1) drop their second straight season opener, as they lost to then No. 25 San Diego, who made the Final Four, in five sets in the Texas A&M Invitational in 2022. The loss is also the second in the series to the Cougars (1-0), as the Panthers won the past three games, which included twice last season and once in 2021.
Pitt jumped out to a lead early, 8-2, with an advantage of 15-10 later on in the first set. BYU fought back to take a 21-20 lead, but Pitt first-year outside hitter Torrey Stafford made two kills and a block assist to return the lead to her team. BYU struggled with serving throughout the first set and made six service errors, with the final one giving Pitt the 25-23 set victory.
The Cougars took control early on in the second set, earning as big as a 15-7 lead. The Panthers tired to make a run and close the lead, cutting it to 20-17, but the Cougars would hold on and tie the match up with a 25-20 set win.
Both teams battled it out in the third set, with BYU holding a 16-15 advantage midway. BYU scored four consecutive points and finished the set off with a 9-4 run, winning 25-19.
The Panthers and Cougars kept it close initially in the fourth set, as the Cougars led 10-9. The Cougars then took command, scoring the next six points and using a 10-4 run to take a 20-13 lead, en route to a 25-16 match winning set.
Pitt finished with a poor hitting percentage, .034, which is the lowest in a match in the 11 seasons head coach Dan Fisher has been in charge. It is the lowest since a .009 hitting percentage against Cincinnati on Sept. 28, 2012 and 0.28 against Wyoming on Sept. 15, 2012.
Florida transfer and junior middle blocker Bre Kelley led the Panthers with nine kills. She tied with first-year right-side hitter Olivia Babcock with a .200 hitting percentage and Babcock also provided seven kills.
Stafford and Babcock made their first career starts for Pitt today. Along with other first-years in outside hitter Blaire Bayless and setter Haiti Tautua’a, they are the highest rated freshman class in Pitt history.
The Cougars had a great performance from senior outside hitter Erin Livingston, who finished with a team-high 19 kills.
Pitt volleyball will try to get their first victory of the season against Montana Saturday afternoon at Noon EST.