Sept. 14, 2013
TAMPA -- Pitt volleyball did its best to stage yet another nailbiter of a comeback, but the Panthers fell short in a five-set loss to No. 22 Purdue at the Sun Dome Corral in the USF Invitational on Saturday morning. Pitt (6-3) will continue play later today, taking on Florida Atlantic at 4:30 p.m.
For the second time in as many matches at the South Florida tournament, Pitt dropped its first set before rallying to even the match in the second. In the end, the decision went to Purdue 25-13, 21-25, 25-18, 17-25, 15-11.
Pitt has struggled historically against Purdue (5-2). The Boilermakers now have an 11-0 advantage in the all-time series. However, today marked the first meeting since 1987 that the Panthers were able to take a set off the Boilermakers. It was also just the second time Pitt went to five sets against Purdue and the first time since 1983 - before any player on either roster was born.
As has started to become a trend, the Panthers were able to regroup after a rocky start and give its opponent a run for its money. After dropping the first set to Purdue in a rather lopsided fashion, Pitt came back in the second. A negative first-set hitting percentage rebounded for .212 in the second and sharper defense forced the Boilermakers' attack to drop down to a .026 clip.
In the second set, which turned out to be one of the most successful for Pitt, Purdue seemed to relax just enough to give the Panthers an opening. Pitt took advantage.
Despite falling behind early, the Panthers stuck with it and chipped away at the Boilermakers' lead. A five-point hole was suddenly down to just two and a kill from Jessica Wynn eventually knotted the score at 15-15. Back-to-back Purdue attack errors and Pitt was officially on a run. Ten of 12 points went to the Panthers and all of a sudden they had their largest lead of the day, 21-16.
That run included contributions from all around the court. While Purdue helped out with some errors, Pitt also had kills from Wynn, Mechael Guess and Jessica Boddy as well as more than one well-timed block.
Purdue found a burst of offense down the stretch, but it ran out of time. Pitt had evened the match at a set apiece.
A third-set letdown still didn't put an end to Pitt's hopes as it rallied for a second time to win the fourth set. This time the Panthers held the lead for nearly the entire frame, seeing it disappear only at 1-1. That lead even reached 10 as a Purdue attack error made it 20-10.
No one player dominated in that fourth set. Wynn and Guess both had four kills, but Jenna Potts (3 kills), Kate Yeazel (2), Maria Genitsaridi (2) and Boddy (1) also chipped in with the offense. Lindsey Zitzke and Jenna Jacobson split 11 assists nearly evenly as well.
Having won that fourth frame 25-17 with a .448 attack percentage, Pitt came roaring out in the fifth eyeing a potential upset. Purdue had other ideas, however, and control of play bounced back and forth. The final frame alone saw five ties and three lead changes, more than the first four sets combined.
Pitt's largest lead in the fifth stood at just 6-4. Purdue then won eight of the next 10 points to take over the scoring advantage for good. Although Wynn and Genitsaridi tallied kills to try to slow the Boilermakers down, that streak put the foes in front 12-8.
Pitt climbed no closer than two points in the short frame and saw its comeback thwarted 15-11.
When all was said and done, Wynn led all players with 13 kills while also hitting .367. Guess also had 11 kills, giving them both double-figure totals for a second consecutive match.
Purdue had initially wasted no time in showing why it is ranked 22nd in the country. The Boilermakers jumped out to an early set lead after winning the first by 12. Purdue started the match on a 6-1 run and its lead only grew as it ticked off five straight points a bit later and took the 13-4 advantage.
Pitt's offense struggled to get things rolling and the Panthers' deficit continued to hover around 10 points for the rest of the frame. At the end of the second, both teams had eight kills, but the hitting percentage told the story. Pitt closed out the first at -.036 (8-9-28). Purdue finished at .375 (8-2-16).
The Panthers were able to recover from that first set, but they had trouble sustaining that success as the match wore on. The third frame remained a closer affair for some time. Boddy registered a solo block that brought Pitt within 10-8, but then Purdue took over again. The Boilermakers went on a 12-2 run after that block and the Panthers found themselves down by double digits yet again.
While Pitt's attack percentage again dropped below .100 in the third, the Panthers also did not let that have the final say in their day. The set proved to be just a hiccup on their way to their third consecutive five-set match. Pitt is now 2-1 this season in matches that go the full five.
After the final point of the day, Pitt had several players fighting for team leads. In addition to Wynn's 13 kills and Guess' 11, Zitzke chipped in 20 assists, followed closed by Jacobson's 19. On the defensive end, Delaney Clesen had 13 digs, while three others had at least seven. Boddy and Potts also had six blocks apiece, while Yeazel added another five.