Miami competitive with ACC leader Pitt, lose 3-1

Fifth year setter Savanah Vach sets freshman outside hitter Grace Lopez who led the Hurricanes in kills and blocks against the Cavaliers at the Knight Sports Complex on Nov. 3, 2023. Photo credit: Trevor Castleman

Coming off a close four-set victory against the Virginia Cavaliers, The University of Miami (16-8,9-5 ACC) faced another four-set conference match against the University of Pittsburgh (21-4,12-2) on November 5th. Although this close match did not go Miami’s way, as both teams battled to limit team mistakes, it was the ‘Canes who came up short in this match, 3-1, at the James L. Knight Sports Complex.

During the first set, Pittsburgh came out with a strong 12-2 run before Miami started to respond. Freshman Grace Lopez led the way for the ‘Canes with four kills, alongside help from redshirt senior Angela Grieve, who added two kills of her own later in the set. The ‘Canes started to gain some energy, but it came in too late as the set ended rather quickly 15-25.

As the second set began, Miami kept the momentum from the end of the first set as it became a back-and-forth battle, with the score being tied 12 times with three lead changes. It remained close until the last points when Miami’s sophomore Flormarie Heredia-Colon brought the score to 21-22 with a kill, followed by a crucial block from teammates graduate student Janice Leao and fifth-year Savannah Vach, to tie the score at 22 all. With the Hurricanes making a comeback, the Pittsburgh coaching staff called a timeout to try and slow the ‘Canes late set run. As the teams returned to the court, Miami remained strong as Heredia-Colon had another kill to tie the score at 23-23. Yet again, it was not enough to stop the Panthers, who had two quick kills to take the set 23-25.

After dropping two sets, Miami began the third set with high energy and mixed with many Pittsburgh mistakes, the ‘Canes were able to capitalize. Early on, the score remained close, though Miami held the lead. As the score reached ten all, the Panthers started to fall apart, and the ‘Canes took advantage, going on a 7-1 run with the Hurricanes getting their largest lead of the match at 18-13. The Panthers could return with a run of their own, tying the set after a challenged call was reversed in Pittsburgh’s favor, bringing it to 18-18. Despite getting close, the ‘Canes never lost the lead, following another Panthers’ error and a critical kill from Vach. Pittsburgh challenged another call, but it remained in Miami’s favor, bringing the score to match point for the ‘Canes at 24-22. Ultimately, Pittsburgh made continuous mistakes, and with one final kill from Lopez, the ‘Canes took the third set 26-24.

In the fourth set, Pittsburgh cleaned up some of the mistakes as Miami began making errors of its own, as the set came down to which team could make fewer mistakes. The ‘Canes took the early lead with two quick kills from Leao and Lopez, who already had an impressive 15 in the match. However, there was a shift as Miami began making more mistakes, allowing the Panther lead to get as large as 11-16. But it was graduate student Abby Casiano, for the ‘Canes, who produced a vital kill to give Miami a needed energy boost. For the rest of the set, it was Lopez who kept the ‘Canes close to the Panthers, having 9 of her career-high 24 kills in this set. Yet, the ‘Canes again hit their stride too late, getting as close as 23-24, but simply had too many mistakes, dropping the set after more errors, giving the Panthers their third set win, 23-25, and the game win.

The ‘Canes look to bounce back as they travel to Tallahassee to face off in another conference match at 1:00 p.m. against FSU on November 12th