Wake Forest 8-16 (3-9) played host to two teams experiencing wildly different seasons this past week, hosting No. 5 Pittsburgh 23-1 (11-1) on Friday and Virginia 7-15 (3-9) on Sunday.
The Panthers entered Friday’s matchup boasting an undefeated record, leaving them and top-ranked BYU as the only squads without a loss. Their impressive season includes wins over the then-No. 12 Washington, No. 21 Louisville, and No. 24 Cal Poly.
Pittsburgh continued its dominant play, sweeping the match in decisive fashion with a 25-13, 25-22, 25-17 victory. The Panthers outhit the Deacons 39 percent to 24 percent while tallying only nine errors. For Wake Forest, junior middle blocker Caitlyn Della and junior outside hitter Caroline Rassenfoss led the charge with 10 kills apiece while sophomore setter Madeline Holt served up 28 assists.
The Panthers got off to a scintillating start, recording a match-high 45.8 hitting percentage in the first set with four blocks to take an early 1-0 lead. The Deacons rallied back in the second set and held on to a 17-12 lead at one point. A furious 13-5 rally led by kills from junior outside hitters Nika Markovic and Stephanie Williams gave the Panthers the second set by a 25-22 mark.
Pitt sealed the victory to remain undefeated with a 25-17 decision in the third set. The Deacons posted their most efficient set at the net matching the Panthers’ 13 kills, but a fiery Pitt offense answered back with a 34.5 hitting percentage and three blocks to clinch the sweep.
On Sunday, Wake Forest had an opportunity to correct its course against one of only two ACC teams below Wake Forest in the win column. Virginia entered Sunday’s matchup seeking its first win in two weeks, having succumbed three matches in a row to Louisville, Notre Dame and Duke.
Wake Forest would lose another quick yet hard-fought match in Reynolds Gym by a close margin of 25-21, 25-22 and 25-21. Virginia’s hitting percentage of 25.5 nearly tripled Wake Forest’s 9.8 percent figure, as the Deacons struggled with efficiency, posting 22 errors overall.
Sophomore outside hitter Myca Mitchell led the charge with 10 kills while Holt dished out 24 assists and senior libero Hailey Brooke McFadden finished with 10 digs. Virginia countered with a balanced attack as four different players posted at least six kills.
Virginia jumped out to an early 15-6 lead in the opening set before the Deacons fought back with an 8-2 run. Sophomore Caroline Kuhn led the run with a pair of kills and an ace to pull the Deacons within three of the visiting Cavaliers. Wake Forest pulled within two points on a pair of occasions down the stretch, but Virginia closed out the set on a 3-0 run to claim the 25-21 decision.
Mitchell opened the second frame with back-to-back kills as Wake Forest built up an early 9-5 lead. The lead would grow to 15-10, forcing a Virginia timeout, as the Deacons had their best hitting percentage of the afternoon in the second set at 20.7 percent. Wake Forest maintained its lead until Virginia tied things up at 21-21. With the Deacons leading 22-21, the Cavaliers ripped off four points to steal a 25-22 victory.
A 5-0 start gave the Cavaliers an early head start before the Deacons stormed back to take the lead. Senior Katie Moore recorded a kill, which would spark an 8-0 run by the home team. During the run, Moore accounted for three kills and a pair of blocks to help push Wake Forest in front 16-13. The momentum couldn’t be sustained, however, as Virginia closed with the final six points to claim the set and the match, 25-21.
Wake Forest will look to halt its four-game losing streak as it travels to North Carolina this weekend, first squaring up against North Carolina State 10-12 (4-8) on Friday at 7:00 p.m. before facing UNC 5-16 (1-11) on Sunday at 1 p.m.