The Pitt volleyball team hosted Penn State at the Petersen Events Center on Sunday afternoon for a high-stakes matchup between two of the top 10 teams in the country. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they were unable to pull off a second straight upset of the Nittany Lions after sweeping them in Happy Valley on Friday night, but they did see their call for a blueout answered by Pitt fans, who also set a program attendance record.
In total, 5,195 fans showed up for the rivalry match, and the vast majority wore royal blue to show their support for the team. However, the Pete was not completely devoid of Penn State fans, as a vocal contingent donning all white could be seen in Section 123.
Sunday’s record-setting crowd was more than six times the size of the volleyball team’s previous season-high draw, which was 824 for its top-10 matchup with Oregon at the Fitzgerald Field House on Sept. 11. Had Sunday’s match been held at the same venue, it would have been filled to its capacity of 4,122, with an overflow of 1,073 spectators.
Of course, the crowd was impressive not only based on the standards of the field house, but also when compared with crowds in the recent history of the Pete. As Craig Meyer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette pointed out, the Pitt-Penn State match also outdrew 21 men’s basketball games over the past two years.
Pitt outside hitter Kayla Lund talked about the atmosphere at the Pete alongside Pitt head coach Dan Fisher during their postmatch press conference on Sunday afternoon.
”It’s pretty unreal,” Lund said after the match. “This is what we’ve wanted. This is what we’ve worked for. We’ve wanted to make a big name for ourselves as a program that shouldn’t be underestimated. And finally having a lot more of the city of Pittsburgh behind our back, a lot of students behind us, it means a lot.”
Lund also said that the immense support was almost overwhelming to the team but that they eventually adapted and used the crowd to their advantage. She added that they’ll need to get used to the droves of fans with the NCAA tournament being held in Pittsburgh this year and the team planning on being a contender.
With Pitt cracking the top four of the AVCA national rankings on Monday — and knocking Penn State back a spot in the process — Lund makes a good point, as Pitt could have home-court advantage for the tournament if it manages to maintain its standing.