Utah Volleyball Loses to Pittsburgh in NCAA Tournament

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Kevin Cody

University of Utah senior Dani Drews (1) in a NCAA Women’s Volleyball game vs. the Stanford Cardinal at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sunday, March 7, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah volleyball team’s season is over after a loss to the University of Pittsburgh in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Utah was cold on Thursday evening after having two weeks off, with Pittsburgh hot, having won 13 in a row going into the match. 

Utah started the night slowly, losing the first set by a score of 25-16. They seemed out of rhythm, which is understandable considering the long layoff. Still, they had time to get things together, and slowly felt more comfortable as the night went on.

The second and third sets were more of the same. Utah attempted a late comeback in set three, but ultimately was not able to break through. They played Pitt close early on in each set, but the Panthers were always able to get some momentum to close it out. Set two finished 25-18, and set three was 25-19. Utah lost in a sweep.

Overall, the Utes were no match for the Panthers’ potent attack. Pitt, who won their 14th game in a row with the win over the Utes, was an absolute machine. This is a classic case of a cold team who has not played in two weeks running into one that has not lost in nearly six months. Pitt hadn’t even lost a set since March 26, and that did not change as they swept Utah.

This finishes Utah’s season at 13-5. An overall solid year ended in disappointment, and many players and fans have to be wondering what might have been had the Utes been allowed to attain some momentum leading into the NCAA Tournament. Pitt was hungry for a victory and came out on fire, as was expected, and the Utes simply didn’t have enough momentum to put a damper on their confidence.

Utah enters the offseason with a chance to bring their whole roster back for next year, due to the NCAA freezing the eligibility clock for winter athletes. The seniors can all return, including Pac-12 player of the year Dani Drews and All-Pac-12 team player Kenzie Koerber. Drews had 20 kills in her final match of the season while Koerber had 10. Both players had incredible years for the Utes and both are expected back next season. Juniors Madelyn Robinson and Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres are also expected to return as cornerstones of the program; Torres was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention. 

This Utah team will be back and likely better next year. It will be exciting to watch them play in a full season, hopefully unhampered by pandemic protocols and regulations. They are expected to be one of the top teams in the Pac-12 again, and will likely get another chance to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.

 

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