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No. 10 WSU falls in Sweet 16, swept away by No. 4 Pitt in three sets

Cougs outstanding season comes to a close in the round of 16.

Ashley Davis

The Washington State Cougars season came to an end by the hands of the Pittsburgh Panthers in the Sweet 16, getting swept in three sets.

WSU fought hard in the opening set, falling just short at 25-20. But the Panthers proved to be just too much with a 25-13 win in set two and delivered the final blow with a 25-16 score in the final set. The Panthers will move on to play the Louisville Cardinals in the Elite Eight. The loss in the Sweet 16 was the furthest WSU had gone in the NCAA Tournament since losing to the Stanford Cardinal in the Sweet 16 in 2018.

The teams looked evenly matched throughout much for the first set. WSU got out to an early 5-3 lead with a kill from Lana Radakovic, but Pitt quickly answered to tie the set at 5-5. Neither team could get a lead bigger than two, trading answers until Pitt reeled off a trio of kills, with just one Panther attacking error in between, to take a 20-16 lead. WSU rallied with a pair of kills from Magda Jehlarova and Iman Isanovic to bring it back to 21-20. Pitt quickly answered with two kills and two aces to finish off the first set.

Pitt began to pick up steam with a dominant second set. The Panthers raced out to an 8-1 lead off of a trio of WSU errors. While the Cougs responded with a pair of kills and a service ace from Isanovic, Pitt quickly pushed their lead right back up to 15-5 and polished off a nightmare set for the Cougs with the 25-13 win.

Facing the potential of their final set of the season, WSU rallied and showed some fight, taking advantage of some Pitt errors to keep things from getting out of hand. The Cougs kept things close, but could never break within two, getting as close as 13-10 before Pitt began to put the Cougs away. The Panthers’ Valeria Vazquez Gomez put the nail in the coffin with the final kill to finish off the sweep for Pitt and end the Cougar season.

WSU hit just .141 compared to Pitt’s .425 and recorded 17 attacking errors to Pitt’s seven. Pitt’s Rachel Fairbanks delivered incredible sets time-and-time again, recording 31 assists.

Despite the disappointing finish, the 2023 season still ranks amongst the best in program history. The Cougs reached as high as fourth in the AP rankings and delivered huge wins over the likes of the reigning national champion Texas Longhorns.

As the Cougs enter an offseason full of uncertainty, there still remains one certainty. As long as Jen Greeny is around, this program will continue to compete amongst the best in the nation.