Volleyball splits pair of weekend ACC matchups

Freshman setter Heloise Soares sets the ball up in the Jackets’ matchup with Florida State in O’Keefe Gymnasium on Oct. 13. // Photo by Alexey Tatarinov Student Publications

Ranked 11th in the nation, Tech volleyball entered their hardest matchup of the season so far: a ranked bout at Pittsburgh. Having been to two straight Final Fours in the NCAA Tournament, the No. 7 Pittsburgh Panthers were 13-2 entering the ACC bout.

However, Tech was not in their finest form going into Pittsburgh. The first set consisted of run after run from both squads, but it was Pitt who held the advantage after pushing out to a 23-22 lead. Then senior outside hitter Tamara Otene scored on three straight kills to end the set in favor of the Jackets at 25-23, pushing the match to 1-0 in favor of Tech.

The second set pushed evenly all the way to a 22-point draw. The Jackets took three of the last four points to win the second set by the same score as the first: 25-23. Now leading the match 2-0, Tech was in prime position to secure a huge road victory over a top ranked team, but the Panthers had other plans. Pitt raced out to a 15-7 lead in the third set and Pitt won the third 25-17. Similarly, the Panthers lept out to an insurmountable 21-10 lead in the fourth set and finished the set with the score at 25-15 to force a fifth, decisive set with the Jackets. 

With one more set to decide the match, the Jackets leapt out to a 4-2 advantage; however, Pitt rallied and took the set with a 10-8 advantage. The Panthers scored the final five points of the set, completing a reverse sweep and handing the Jackets their second loss of the season in a 3-2 bout. 

Following the physically exerting match at Pittsburgh, Tech traveled to Charlottesville, VA to take on the Virginia Cavaliers. Tech stormed into the first set of the match, decimating the Cavaliers attack on their way to a 23-9 lead. The teams exchanged the last four points as Tech took the opening set 25-11. However, Virginia battled back and matched Tech throughout the second set. The Jackets jumped to a late 19-17 lead but were unable to hold as Virginia went on a six point run to take the second set at 25-21. 

Tech turned it around in the third set behind solid digs and offensive play. The match remained even until Tech jumped to a 24-18 set point lead and emerged victorious 25-21. However, Virginia would battle in the fourth and win 25-22, putting Tech in their third straight match with five sets. 

In the fifth set, freshman outside hitter Larissa Mendes called game as she scored six of the Jackets’ points, five of which were the last six in the set. Mendes lifted Tech to a 15-13 fifth set win and a 3-2 match victory for the Jackets.

Following the thriller in Virginia, the Jackets returned home for the first time since Sept. 24 to take on Florida State on Oct. 13. The Seminoles came into the match 12-6 and undefeated in ACC play with a 6-0 record. The Jackets failed to match Florida State’s runs and fell behind 14-8 in the first set. However, behind a junior outside hitter Bianca Bertolino kill, Tech rallied back within one at 14-13. From there, a late Seminole surge put the set away at 25-21 in favor of Florida State. Tech came back in the second set, grabbing the set at 25-23, knotting the match at 1-1 in O’Keefe. 

Florida State came out of the locker room for the third set and dominated. Every point for the Jackets would generate two in response from the Seminoles as Florida State took the set 25-18. 

However, Tech would not be deterred so easily and responded with their own dominant set. The fourth set remained relatively even until junior middle blocker DeAndra Pierce ignited momentum amd fueled a Tech surge to a gritty, 25-18 fourth set victory.

In their fourth straight five set game, the Jackets’ experience showed as they exchanged points with Florida State and held the Seminoles off for a 16-14 win and 3-2 match victory in front of a  raucous O’Keefe Gymnasium. 

In the 22nd straight sell out of O’Keefe Gymnasium, a streak that dates back to the 2021 season, the Jackets were set to take on the Miami Hurricanes. The Jackets held even with Miami in the first set until a 21 all crossroad where the Hurricanes pushed ahead to take the first set 25-23. The second set saw the Jackets fall behind and fail to close within more than two points as Miami took a 2-0 lead in the match off a run away 25-20 win in the second set. 

Needing a reverse sweep to win the match now, Tech jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the third set behind a crop of Mendes kills. However, Miami roared back and was up 20-14 and looked to have the Jackets on the ropes. Otene and Bertolino brought Tech back to tie it 20-20, but Miami would take the set in an extra serve 26-24, thus sweeping the Jackets. 

Now sitting at 15-3 on the season and 6-2 in ACC play, the Jackets play Duke next at O’Keefe Gymnasium on Oct. 20 at 7:00 p.m. Tech looks to bounce back from the rough loss to Miami. Last season, Tech beat Duke 3-1, only forfeiting the third set of the match by a score of 30-28. The Jackets will look to perform similarly this season to get a win.