The Florida volleyball team finished its season Thursday afternoon with a 3-1 loss (20-25, 21-25, 25-17, 22-25) against 2-seed Pitt in the Madison Regional Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament in Madison, Wisconsin.
The Gators outperformed the Panthers in kills (59-56), digs (55-49) and blocks (10-7) but couldn’t recover from 30 costly total errors. With the result, Pitt now advances to the regional final.
The Panthers Take First Set Off Florida Errors
Pitt started the match with a quick 4-2 lead thanks to a pair of kills by outside hitter Courtney Buzzerio and a Gators service error. Florida, however, won eight of the following 11 points to take a 10-7 lead.
The Panthers responded with four unanswered points and switched the momentum by taking a 15-12 edge heading into the first media timeout. After the break, the Gators were forced to call their first timeout of the set after allowing Pitt to run an 18-14 lead.
Florida mounted a 6-3 run and stayed in the set thanks to kills and blocks by outside hitters Merritt Beason and Sofia Victoria. But the Panthers proved resilient and took the next four points to secure a 25-20 win.
The Gators finished the frame with five service errors and allowed opponents to have a .303 hitting percentage. Buzzerio registered six kills for the Panthers, while UF’s Marina Markova and Beason combined for nine.
Pitt Escapes Late Gators Run
In the second set, the Panthers jumped to a 13-9 lead by fueling an early 7-1 run. The Gators, forced to a timeout, saw their repetitive attacks blocked or stopped by a solid Pitt defense and fell to a six-point deficit.
Late in the set, with the score at 23-18, the Gators scored three unanswered points via a Buzzerio service error and two kills by Victoria. Meanwhile, Pitt head coach Dan Fisher called a timeout and successfully challenged an out-of-bounds call in the next play to find the set point.
Buzzerio and middle blocker Serena Gray finished the set with an assisted block off Victoria.
Gators Stay Alive
With the Gators’ season on the line, both teams chased each other with six tied scores early in the set. Florida, however, secured the momentum by building a 12-9 lead off three straight Pitt errors.
The Panthers tried to stop UF’s streak by using their two timeouts early, but it wasn’t enough to stop a relentless Gator squad. Florida continued to block shots and hammer an unresponsive Pitt defense with a 13-8 run.
Collectively, the Gators posted a .571 hitting percentage while holding Pitt to a -.030 clip. Florida finished the set with 13 kills and only one attack error.
Gators Fall Short in Fourth Set
The Panthers started the final frame with an early 6-2 run. Florida head coach Mary Wise quickly called a timeout and got the Gators back on the board with an 8-4 run to tie the score at 10.
Pitt created some distance by scoring four straight points and keeping the Gators from starting any rallies. Florida tried to cut the lead but couldn’t chain more than two points in a row.
When the Panthers reached the 20-point mark with a four-point lead, the Gators threatened to come back by scoring six of the next 10 points. However, Pitt was able to seal the win with an electric kill by Buzzerio and eliminate the Gators.