The Pitt-Penn State football rivalry may be headed for another break after this season but the volleyball programs are set to clash.
Pitt’s volleyball team announced its schedule for the 2019 season on Wednesday and it included some pretty noteworthy news as the Panthers will face Penn State as part of a home-away series.
Pitt will travel to Penn State on Friday, September 20 before hosting the Nittany Lions on Sunday, September 22.
The concept is a really cool one and beneficial for a number of reasons. First, it helps to beef up Pitt’s schedule which was seemingly taken to task by poll voters last year. Pitt adds not one game with an incredible opponent, but two. Second, it creates an instant rivalry game and a big match atmosphere. Finally, it will serve as a great promoter of what is the school’s best program right now in terms of competitiveness. Even people that aren’t big volleyball fans will be able to get behind something like this. That matchup against Penn State will also be in the Pete instead of the smaller Field House where most of their matches are played.
It might be cool to play a big match like that in the Field House where it would be so bonkers because it’s such a small venue. I went to a Pitt-Duquesne basketball game years ago at Duquesne’s small gym when DeJuan Blair was still here and that atmosphere was incredible. But the Pete makes the most sense logistically and will allow a lot more people the chance to experience the game.
I really can’t overstate how big this is for the program and I’d love to see something like this on an annual level. As I’ve said in the past, Pitt and Penn State playing in any sport is just something that should happen as much as possible.
The rest of Pitt’s schedule is impressive, too. As noted in the release, Pitt will play 16 matches against teams that were in the NCAA Tournament last year. And some of those teams, including Penn State, Cal Poly, and Oregon were ranked at season’s end. Both Penn State (No. 6) and Oregon (No. 9) were in the top ten.
There are a couple of other big things surrounding the schedule, too. For one thing, Pitt will face Ohio State at PPG Paints Arena downtown. For another, the Panthers will play Duquesne in a City Game. It’s been a few years since Pitt has played Duquesne and, again, it’s just something that should be happening every year in my book. There are also tough matches against Pepperdine and Utah — two teams that were just outside of the Top 25 at the end of last year.
Pitt has played some solid non-conference competition in years past but this is a stronger slate. You can bet that was an area of emphasis for the program as they were pretty consistently disregarded by pollsters, despite some high rankings based on lofty achievements, including a 23-0 start and a 30-2 overall record.
The Panthers aren’t likely to repeat that kind of record this year. But with a tougher schedule, they could earn even more respect with a big win or two.