Sports, Fall, Volleyball

Eagles Struggle to Generate Offense in Loss Against No. 11 Panthers

After getting steamrolled by Louisville in its season-opening home stand, Boston College volleyball dropped its third-consecutive game, 3-1, in Pittsburgh on Friday night. The Eagles (0-3) this season are very different from the ones that secured a program record of 20 wins during their 2019 campaign. Whether this could be attributed to a lack of training this offseason or the large number of newcomers, onlookers can see a visible difference in this year’s performance.

Heading into this matchup, both the Eagles and the No. 11 Panthers (1-2) had yet to secure a win. And yet, it was clear which team had the upper hand, with Pitt dominating the game up front. 

The first set was a bloodbath for the Eagles. Pitt standout Kayla Lund proved to be a force to be reckoned with up front, logging three kills in the first 10 points of the match. The Panthers, energized by Lund’s powerful swings, jumped out to an early 9-2 lead. Eagles head coach Jason Kennedy called a timeout, but he couldn’t stop the Panthers’ momentum, the home team quickly going up 16-7. 

Lund had five kills and two digs, with fellow Panther Chinaza Ndee adding three more to help push the Panthers up 22-8. The Eagles only managed to break up the run when the Panthers committed a net violation. And yet, this stop in Pitt’s momentum wasn’t enough for the Eagles to come back with a run of their own. Ndee stepped up for the Panthers and closed out the set with two consecutive kills, finishing up the set 25-9.

Despite its early struggles, BC came back for a tight second set. Clare Naughton tallied three kills of her own in the second, including a massive spike that put the Eagles up 7-5. With Lund on the sideline and the Panthers suddenly reeling, Kennedy turned up the heat. Three straight Eagles points forced a Pitt timeout, and while BC’s timeout was unsuccessful in putting a halt to the Panthers’ momentum in the first set, this break in play caused a big swing in dynamics as Pitt came out on top.

Following the timeout, the Panthers came back from six points down to tie the set at 12. Once the game was tied up, the long runs were halted, with the teams exchanging points back and forth. Neither team had a lead larger than two until the end of the set. At 20-18, Gabby McCaa smashed a massive block back at Pitt freshman Jordan Lockwood. The point in favor of BC seemed to turn things around for the Eagles as they managed to squeeze out a win in the second set, 25-19.

The adrenaline that carried the Eagles through the second set seemed to wear off, however, as the next two sets looked more like the first. Pitt returned Lund and Ndee to the frontcourt and Lockwood came alive too. BC did itself no favors either, opening the set with two service errors to give the Panthers an easy lead. 

The Eagles managed to get their feet back under them and bring the set to 8-5, but Pitt once again began to pull away. Lund tallied another six kills in the third set, and Lockwood connected on a pair of consecutive spikes that put the third set out of reach for BC. Even though the Eagles were able to perform better in this set than the first one, the win was still far out of reach, with the Panthers securing it at 25-18. 

The fourth set was even harder for BC as it struggled to get things going on offense. The scoresheet read 8-5, then 10-6, then 12-9. BC was always within striking distance, but the Panthers were always a step ahead, keeping the game out of reach. 

When the score reached 20-16, Pitt went on a 4-0 run to bring the game to a match point. BC secured a few points to stave off a loss but it could not dig itself out of the hole. Pitt sealed the deal on an official review that gave the Panthers a point after initially being called in favor of the Eagles, ending the game anticlimactically.

In its three appearances this season, the Eagles have only won two sets, making the 20 wins from last season seem like a fluke. Whether COVID-19 has disrupted the season or not, so far, the Eagles don’t look like the same team that surprised everyone last year.

Featured Image by Alex Mowrey / Pittsburgh Athletics

October 10, 2020