A day after their victory over West Virginia, the Huskies were back inside the confines of Gampel Pavilion to welcome in the Panthers from Pittsburgh.
The first game began with Pitt’s Stephanie Ross delivering a spike which UConn couldn’t return with 3 hits. Teammate Jessica Moses then served an ace off the defense and it was 0-2. Another Pittsburgh point came when Kelly Campbell knocked a shot into the center gap.
Connecticut got on the board when Lauren Lamberti hit one in and Pitt blocked it out of bounds. Meagan Dooley extended the lead for the Panthers when her spike was knocked out. Sade Chambers spiked an attack into a gap in the Pitt D to bring the Huskies back within 2, but a UConn serve out of bounds brought the score to 2-5. Chambers hit another spike to a gap in the center Pitt zone and it was 3-5.
U of C hit into the net on the next play, and an error of some kind on the next play brought Pittsburgh their 7th point. UConn responded when Rebecca Murray tapped a ball into the back zone, though Pitt’s Nicole Taurence’s quick hit during the next rally bounced off the home team defense and into the seats. The back and forth continue when Pitt committed a 2 hit error. Following that, Ross smashed a spike off the defenders to put Pitt up by four again. Connecticut’s Chauntay Mickens came up with a gigantic smash to make it 6-9. Gina Heiderman added to UConn’s scoring when her block led to a 7th point. A Pitt hit into the net made it 8-9, and the Panthers hit the ball out of bounds to lead to a tie score 9-9. Lamberti unleashed a spike which flew off a defensive dig to the floor to give the Huskies their first lead of the game and match. Diana Andreyko responded for Pitt when she hit a set backwards which sailed just over the net and couldn’t be returned to tie the game back up.
A big rally ensued and was ended when Pitt spiked it into a net, though the Panthers picked up another point to tie it back up. They would surrender the lead with a serve out of bounds. Connecticut’s serve by Lamberti bounced off the defense for the ace and the point. A UConn block flew to the back defensive zone and was not returnable to extend the lead to 14-11. Pittsburgh by the way was benefiting by a defense that had many good saves to keep the ball alive throughout the game. The Panthers spiked out of bounds on the next play, but Connecticut hit into the net to bring the score to 15-12. The Panthers hit out of bounds to continue the back and forth, and UConn I believe committed a lift penalty after that, so the score was now 16-13.
Another exchange of points came about when the Huskies spiked into the net, but Sade Chambers spiked a shot off the defense. Pitt’s Kelly Campbell responded with a spike of her own and a UConn spike out of bounds on the next play brought the visitors back within 1. Jessica Moses and Stephanie Ross tied it for the Panthers when their block was knocked out of bounds by the U of C. After Campbell dropped a ball into a gap in the UConn front Pitt pulled out to a lead 17-18 and Connecticut called a time out.
When play resumed Pitt started a run with a pair of points, and Campbell came up with a smash off the blockers to make it 17-21. Another time out was called and UConn emerged from it with a pair of points as Devon Farrell’s spike bounced off a dig by Pittsburgh and was not returned, and the Panthers committed a two hit error. The Huskies suffered a two hit error of their own despite a diving hit by libero Jessica Isaac to keep the ball going on a play to bring the score to 19-22.
Moses and Andreyko added to Pitt’s lead when their block flew into the gap in the center of the Huskies zone, though a 2 hit error by the visitors would result in a score of 20-23. Moses hit into another defensive gap to extend the lead to 20-24, but Connecticut responded. Following a battle at the net UConn picked up a point, and Lamberti dropped a ball into the gap in the front line after that. Pitt spiked out of bounds and the Huskies were back within 1. Dooley responded for the Panther and extended the lead with a spike to the left corner of the UConn side. The Huskies spike a shot out of bounds, and Dooley continued the scoring when her block lead to the U of C committing a two hit error in a return attempt. Andreyko continued the scoring run when her spike deflected off the defense into the seats. The run came to an end when Pitt served into the net and it was 24-28. Taurence responded quickly hit it into a gap in the center of the defense to put Pitt within a point of winning, but an error for her team returned the ball to the Connecticut side with the score 25-29. UConn began a comeback with Kate Seabaugh coming up with a service ace. Chambers delivered a big time spike to a gap in the back defense and it was 27-29. Pitt called a time out and when play resumed the Huskies spiked a ball out to lose the point and game 27-30. UConn 0, Pitt 1.
Game two began with Pitt pulling out to a quick lead when Dooley let loose a spike, UConn spiked a ball out of bounds, a second Dooley spike was not blocked, and another attack succeeded to make it 0-4. The Panthers served out of bounds to put UConn on the board, but the Huskies served into the net and Dooley and Taurence combined on a block for Pitt to extend the lead to 1-6. Connecticut called a time out at this point, though a Dooley spike following the play stoppage would put the lead at 1-7. The visitors spiked a shot over and out to give UConn another point, but Dooley again scored one when her tap was knocked off the D into the net.
As was shown in the West Virginia game the day before, UConn can come back quickly and they started to when Chambers had a mighty spike which caromed off the defense, though the Huskies would hit out of bounds on the next play they were still moving forward. Lamberti knocked a ball over and Pitt couldn’t return it with 3 hits. Rebecca Murray and Bridget Denson-Dorman came up with a block to the middle of the Pitt zone to make it 5-9, though a U of C error would put the score at 5-10.
Chambers struck another spike which bounded off the Panthers and out of bounds, and the Huskies hit a ball in to end a big rally on the following play to put themselves with 3. Following that, each side exchanged some mistakes as UConn served out of bounds, and Pitt served into the net. Pittsburgh picked up another point, but Chauntay Mickens thwacked a spike over which the was hit out of bounds, and a Panther two hit error on the following rally lead to a 10-12 score and a Pitt time out.
The visitors emerged from the time out and promptly spiked a ball out of bounds, and followed that up with a hit into the net. The score was now tied 12-12. UConn served the ball into the net to give the lead back to Pitt, but Gina Heiderman’s block tied the game back up at 13. Chambers then found a hole in the defense and tapped a ball to the floor, and on the following point came up with a block to give UConn a 15-13 lead. Dooley responded with her own tap in point to bring her team back within 1, though Lamberti answered that when her mammoth spike went untouched by the defense.
Pitt’s Moses lightly hit an attack in and following that, UConn hit a shot out of bounds to bring the score back to a 16-16 tie. Chambers boomed a spike from the net into the back zone to take the lead for UConn again, though Kelly Campbell had a big time block for Pitt to tie it back up. Each side was battling back and forth as Chambers responded with another spike, but a serve into the net evened the score at 18. Pitt took the lead when UConn hit it into the net, but then next point was won for the Huskies. With the score 19-19, a rally ensued, but there was official debate on the outcome until Connecticut was awarded the point. Denson-Dorman unleashed a serve which thwarted a Pitt dig attempt and it was 21-19 off of the ace. Dooley responded for her team again with a massive spike which flew off the Huskies and into the stands. Murray hammered a spike in to extend the UConn lead to 2 again. Lamberti added to that when she went up with what looked like a set attempt but at the last second spiked one in and it was 23-20. The scoring run ended when UConn hit a ball out of bounds, but they got right back to it when Lamberti tapped one over and it was 24-21.
The Panther’s however fought back with another Dooley spike, and a Moses tap in, as well as another point. Lamberti walloped a spike over for another point, though Pitt would tie it again at 25. A UConn knock out of bounds gave Pitt a 1 point lead. UConn tied it back up and picked up another point when the Panthers hit an antenna. Though UConn would hit a ball out of bounds and it was 27-27. Chambers smacked a spike off the visiting defense to put UConn ahead again, though Diana Andreyko responded for Pitt with a spike as well. Connecticut called a time out at this point with the score tied 28-28.
Pitt served the ball to restart play, but it was UConn’s Murray who would drive a spike over to the gap to make it 29-28 and bring a game point situation into play. Andreyko however pulled Pitt out of that when her spike flew in to tie it at 29. The Panthers picked up another point not surprisingly off of Dooley unleashing a spike and it was 29-30. With it at game point the Huskies hit a return into the net and the Panthers picked up a hard fought win 29-31. UConn, 0, Pitt 2.
Game 3 would prove to be just as wild. It opened with Mickens spiking her way to a UConn point. Pitt replied with a spike to even the score at 1. Lamberti provide her answer in a spike kill that ended up in the good seats after deflecting off the visiting D. The obviously dangerous Dooley tapped a kill that ended up out of bounds despite the defense’s efforts to return it and it was 2-2. Pitt picked up a pair of points, including one off a U of C hit into the net, but Lamberti picked up another spike to add to her collection and it was 3-4. The Panthers scored, when you guessed it, Dooley walloped a spike in, though her teammates joined in when Emily Burke and Kelly Campbell each picked up blocks. The Huskies spiked a ball out of bounds and it was 3-8. UConn called a time out to regroup.
UConn had been in this position before however, and had pulled themselves out of it. This game would prove to be no different. The two teams exchange points of a Pitt knock into the antenna, and a UConn spike out of bounds. The score was 4-9 when Pitt served out of bounds to make it 5-9. Murray nailed a spike in to make it 6-9, and the Panthers hit the antenna with a return again to make it 7-9. A large rally broke out, but Murray came up with another spike which the blockers hit out of bounds. Libero Jessica Isaac was continuing to put up some good defense throughout.
Pitt’s Kelly Campbell put Pitt up by 2 again with her spike, but Chambers found a gap to lightly hit the white ball into and it was 9-10. Moses had her own tap attack in response, and Andreyko socked a spike in for a 9-12 Panther lead. After those plays, a pair of UConn spikes sailed out of bounds and the lead was now 9-14. Pitt then hit a ball out of bounds and gave up another point to make it 11-14. UConn had the serve and Bridget Denson-Dorman came up with an ace when the defense’s dig flew out of bounds. Murray had a block at the net to bring the Huskies back within one, though a serve out of bounds would make it 13-15. Campbell than bashed a spike in for a 13-16 Pitt lead and Andreyko came up with a block to tack on another point.
Murray picked up two points in a row when her massive spike hit the back left corner of the Pitt zone, and she followed it up with a service ace when the Panther defense couldn’t set up a return. Devon Farrell got in on the scoring when she spiked in front of the Pitt back line to make it 16-17. Dooley returned the favor with a spike which the defense failed to stop, and after that UConn spiked a shot out of bounds to put Pitt up 16-19.
Lamberti started a UConn charge with a spike, and Pitt hit the antenna again I believe, before Lamberti again knocked a spike off a dig attempt. With the score 19-19, Chambers and Farrell blocked an attack to put UConn in the lead. Pitt would pick up a point on the next play though, but Chambers and Farrell had spikes to put the score at 22-20. Moses stopped the scoring run with a tap in, and the Huskies spiked a ball out of bounds to bring it 22-22. The home team added a point when Pittsburgh struggled with a set, but Campbell tied it up again when her spike hit the UConn dig and bounced to the floor. She then picked up a service ace on the next play, and UConn called a time out with the score 23-24.
After the minute passed, Chambers smashed a spike untouched to the Pitt floor to tie the game at 24-24. Pitt committed a two hit error and it was 25-24 UConn, but Andreyko came up with a spike to tie the game at 25. Dooley and Stephanie Ross combined on a block to put the Panthers back in the lead, but their team would have a 2 hits error again and it was 26-26. Ross picked up a spike off the defense to add 1 to the lead and it was 26-27. UConn spiked a ball out of bounds to put it 26-28, and Melissa Ferguson picked up an ace for the Panthers when the Huskies had a bad set. It was now 26-29 and game point. Rebecca Murray came up with a powerful spike to the back Pitt zone to put UConn back within 2, and the Panthers smashed a ball out of bounds to bring it to 28-29. Pitt quickly called a time out but emerged from it with another spike out of bounds. The score was 29-29.
Dooley then sprung into action and tapped a shot in to make it 29-30. This would set up a block from Campbell on the next rally to end the game 29-31 and the match. UConn 0, Pitt 3. It would be hard to think of how the games could be much closer than they were. As usual there many defensive contributions and assists throughout the game and I try to catch them when I can with the little time that I have to observe and write. It’s meant as no insult to those who come up with the digs and sets and I’ll continue to try to write about them when I can.
(Based on eyewitness observation, there is no play by play for this match.)
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