Pitt is a Volleyball school. A soccer school too. Maybe even a wrestling school as well. This past week in Pittsburgh Panthers sports was filled with late postseason runs, dominant regular season performances, and a 5-2 record overall in non-revenue sports.
A magical postseason run concluded this past Friday when Pitt fell 0-2 to #3 Indiana in the NCAA College Cup semi-finals. The trip to the semis was a wild one, with Pitt knocking off Cleveland State, #16 Akron, previously unbeaten #1 Kentucky, and Portland on the way. The Panthers did all of this as an unseeded tournament participant. The Panthers are becoming something of an established powerhouse in the NCAA soccer scene, as this was their third straight elite-eight appearance and second College Cup appearance in the last three seasons. Congratulations to Coach Jay Vidovich and the Panthers on a remarkable season!
If you watched Pitt volleyball this past week, you’re likely still waiting for your blood pressure to return to normal levels. The Panthers breezed through the Pittsburgh regional the week prior, not dropping a single set in two matches against Colgate and #7 BYU (Shoutout Rachel Fairbanks for recording the Panther’s first-ever postseason triple-double). This past week Dan Fisher and his #2 Panthers traveled to Madison, WI as one of the four teams in the Madison regional final alongside #1 Wisconsin, #3 Florida, and #4 Penn State.
The Panthers matched up with the Gators in the Sweet-Sixteen and handled business relatively quickly, winning the match 3-1. They were led as usual this season by Courtney Buzzerio who had 19 kills on .268 hitting percentage, with contributions by Serena Gray and Chiamaka Nwokolo, both having extremely efficient offensive performances with hitting percentages upwards of .400.
Following that, the Panthers had the unenviable task of walking into a sold-out, absolutely rocking (decibel levels reached as high as 110, comparable to the average rock concert) UW-Madison Field House. The Panthers were matched up against the #1, defending national champion Wisconsin Badgers who had not lost in 18 prior matches. In what will likely go down as one of the better postseason volleyball matches of recent history, the Panthers stunned the Badgers in five sets, winning 3-2 after a nail-biting 15-13 fifth set that saw a once large Panther lead slowly chipped away.
In the end, it’s the Panthers heading to Omaha to face off against co-ACC champ Louisville for a spot in the national championship game. This is the second consecutive Final Four for a Panthers Volleyball program that has truly staked a claim to the title of Pitt’s best sports program in recent years. Good luck to the Panthers and be sure to tune in to watch them Thursday night!
The Panther women’s basketball team had two contests this week as they begin to wrap up out-of-conference play. First up was a match with Loyola (MD) in which the Panthers were victorious, winning by a score of 78-42. Pitt held Loyola to a sub .20 FG%, setting their record for best defensive performance per that metric since they joined the ACC. Avery Strickland led the team in scoring, dropping 17 points off the bench on 7-8 shooting, including 3-4 from deep.
Following that was a matchup against MAC conference foe Ball State. The Panthers came up short in this one, losing 66-68 in OT. They had chances at the end of regulation as well as with a minute left in overtime to take the lead but were unable to convert. Amber Brown had a career performance, as the senior posted 20 points and 17 boards. Liatu King also performed well, scoring 19 points in the loss.
The Panthers don’t play again until this Sunday when they play Hailey Van Lith and the Louisville Cardinals in their ACC season opener.
Pitt continued in their winning ways on the wrestling mat as well this past week, extending their winning streak to four matches. First up was a 42-3 demolition of Brown, with only one Pitt wrestler dropping points.
Following that was a matchup with another Ivy League squad, this time in the Big Apple as Pitt traveled to face the Columbia Lions. This matchup was much tighter than the contest against Brown, with the Panthers finding themselves in an 18-9 hole with three bouts to go. Each Panther stepped up, with their back against the wall, and held strong to come back and stun the Lions, winning 19-18.
This was the Panther’s fourth straight win and they currently are ranked #20 in the nation, with chances to improve on that in the coming weeks.