HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford women's volleyball team wrapped up its 2018 season in the NCAA Tournament First Round Friday.
The defeat came at the hands of Thomas More (32-3), who entered the NCAA Tournament ranks No. 7 in the Nov. 6 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Top 25.
"I thought we played well the first two sets, and if we pulled out a win in one of them, the outcome might have been a little different," Head Coach Tom Roof said. "But, Thomas More is one of the best offensive teams in the country and it showed. I thought we hung with them and had a good showing overall. We dug some good balls and had a good presence at the net. The outcome is disappointing, but we have to learn from it, grow from it and get better from it. Playing in the NCAA Tournament and facing one of the best teams in the country has been great experience for our young team."
Though the opponent on the other side of the net entered with a strong national reputation, Pitt-Bradford (20-13) hung tough.
"That's just the team we have," senior Payton Orzech said in the post-game press conference. "Anytime we have a great dig or win a long volley, we use each other for energy. It's a great, great feeling and it's the only thing that can keep you up sometimes."
The Saints opened up the first set with a 9-2 lead, but Pitt-Bradford rallied eventually took a 13-11 advantage and forced a Thomas More timeout.
But the Saint regrouped and took the first set, 25-17.
Pitt-Bradford controlled the lead early in set two, opening up a 9-2 lead and eventually building an 11-4 advantage.
Once again, though, the Saints found their offensive stroke and rallied to a 25-18 victory, taking a two-set lead.
The Saints continued their strong play and rolled to a win in the third set to take the match in straight sets and advance to the NCAA Tournament Second Round.
"Everybody, on and off the court, on this team picks each other up," Katie Treat added in the post-game press conference. "That's the way its been all season, and I think that's a reason we did so well this year."
Treat led the team with six kills while Riley Anderson added five.
Orzech assisted 18 of the team's 19 kills.
The defeat caps a memorable campaign for Pitt-Bradford, which won 20 games, went 7-2 in AMCC action, swept its way to the conference title match and pulled off a thrilling two-set comeback win at and against top-seeded Penn State-Behrend to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.
As a result, Anderson was named the AMCC's Co-Player of the Year, while Emily Cleveland, Hildebrand, Orzech and Treat picked up All-AMCC honors.
Pitt-Bradford will graduate its primary setter Orzech, who amassed 1,696 assists in her two years as a Panther. Katie Sedon, who was set to play a key role in the Panthers' success this season but had her campaign cut short due to injury, will also graduate this academic year. Both provided irreplaceable leadership.
However, Pitt-Bradford is set to return 19 players from this season next year -- three for their sophomore year, 10 for their junior year and six for their senior year.