ERIE, Pa. – Down, but never out.
That's the only way to describe the 2018 University of Pittsburgh at Bradford women's volleyball team's gutsy performance Sunday.
Pitt-Bradford battled all the way back from being down two sets to none to defeat top-seeded Penn State-Behrend on its home gym to claim the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Championship.
"Very proud of this team. It took everybody playing well to pull this off," Head Coach Tom Roof said. "This was something we had our sights on all year, especially after the way last season ended. The girls never got down on themselves after the first two sets, and this is where we wanted to be. The traveling Pitt crowd was fabulous today. That created a great situation for our team.
"I'm so happy for these kids," Roof said of his championship squad. "They all worked so hard to be here and they stuck together all season."
The conference title is the team's second in three years and the third in program history (2010).
Penn State-Behrend capitalized on 11 Pitt-Bradford attack errors and cruised to a 25-18 win in set one.
Things were looking even worse for the Panthers in the second set as Behrend rode a .361 hitting percentage to an easy 25-15 win.
Looking to take the Panthers out in three sets, Behrend grabbed the first two points of the third, but Pitt-Bradford answered with a seven-straight of their own to spark life back into their game.
The Lions battled back, though, and eventually, the two teams stood locked at 14-14.
Neither team gave way and 20 points later, the score stood at 24-24.
But a kill from Riley Anderson followed by a Behrend attack error kept Pitt-Bradford alive and sent the title match to a fourth set.
Set four was all Panthers.
Backed by raucous "Let's Go Pitt" chants from the Panther faithful, Pitt-Bradford stormed to a 25-15 win, knocking 13 kills on 42 attempts along the way.
But Behrend returned to form in the deciding set, and neither team held a two-point lead until back-to-back Panthers attack errors brought the score to 7-5 in favor of the Lions.
Three-straight points from the Panthers capped by a kill from Alexandra Segura gave the Panthers an 8-7 lead, but the Lions eventually erased it with two straight points of their own.
Back-and-forth they went, trading the lead until Behrend earned a 15-14 advantage – one point away from clinching their second-straight AMCC title.
The two teams traded points until a Behrend attack error tipped the score to 17-16 in favor of the Panthers, setting up match point.
Off the Alayna Seggi serve – with all Panther fans on their feet, chanting "Let's Go Pitt" -- Behrend sent their attack into the net and the Panthers erupted in celebration.
Anderson led the team with 15 kills, followed closely by Emily Cleveland with 14.
Segura once again topped her career high with 13 kills. She assisted five blocks as well.
Orzech notched 51 assists and had 17 digs for a double-double effort.
Laura Hildebrand led the way with 20 digs.
With 13 digs, Anderson had a double-double as well, and Alexis Constantino (13) and Seggi (11) also had double-figure digs totals.
The women's volleyball AMCC title is the Pitt-Bradford Department of Athletics' second of Fall 2018, as the Panthers men's golf team secured the conference championship last month.
With the win, Pitt-Bradford improves to 20-12 on the season, with a chance to add to that total next week.
Pitt-Bradford receives the AMCC's automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Tournament. The bracket will be announced at 12:30 EST Monday. The Panthers enter the national tournament riding a six-match winning streak.