2021 Panthers’ Choice Awards

Here is a quick piece about our Pitt Student/Athletes achievements over the past year. As we have been talking a lot about the minor or smaller sports programs at Pitt and the pleasure they have given us – let’s not forget all the other players, scholars, coaches and others at Pitt who work so very hard to give us, their teammates and fellow students an enjoyable time to be a Pitt fan…

Link: Panthers’ Choice Awards

Pitt Athletics Announces Winners from 2021 Panthers’ Choice Awards

Varsity Walk Additions Highlight Annual Ceremony

PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh Department of Athletics hosted the fourth annual Panthers’ Choice Awards Sunday evening with a virtual celebration of student-athlete achievements in academics, athletics and citizenship made during the 2019-20 academic year.

The Panthers’ Choice Awards honor Pitt’s top athletic performances, community service participation as well as the top teams in terms of both athletic and academic accomplishment.

Presenters were highlighted by 1948 Olympic medalist and American living legend Herb Douglas, who announced the Heart of a Panther Award to gymnastics’ Olivia Miller.
Additionally, the prestigious Panther Awards and Blue-Gold Awards were presented during the program. The names of the recipients are forever recognized on Pitt’s Varsity Walk between the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Memorial Chapel, in a tradition that dates back to 1950.

Football’s Jimmy MorrisseyPatrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver, volleyball’s Kayla Lund and Chinaza Ndee and wrestling’s Jake Wentzel will each have their names engraved on the prestigious Varsity Walk, ensuring their status as legends in Pitt Athletics history.
Below is a full list of awards presented Sunday.
Top Overall Academic Teams of the Year

  • Reserved for the male and female team with the highest cumulative GPA for the spring and fall semesters of 2020.
  • Winners: Men’s Cross Country and Volleyball

 Bridge Builder Award

  • Presented to the team whose student-athletes demonstrate the strongest commitment to making an impact in the community.
  • Winners: Gymnastics and Women’s Lacrosse

 Heart of a Panther Award

  • Presented to the student-athlete who best embodies the spirit of service through the Pitt Promise and is involved in the community above and beyond what is required.
  • Winner: Olivia Miller (Gymnastics)

 Gold Standard Teammates of the Year

  • Presented to the student-athlete who most effectively inspires his or her team through exemplary commitment, composure and integrity.
  • Baseball: Nico Samarkos
  • Men’s Basketball: Nike Sibande
  • Women’s Basketball: Gabbie Green
  • Men’s Cross Country: Josh Higgins
  • Women’s Cross Country: Ally Brunton
  • Football: David Green
  • Gymnastics: Katrina Coca
  • Women’s Lacrosse: Therese Pittman
  • Men’s Soccer: Valentin Noel
  • Women’s Soccer: Celia Lopez
  • Softball: Morgan Batesole
  • Men’s Swimming & Diving: Judd Fishman
  • Women’s Swimming & Diving: Kathleen Lynch
  • Men’s Track & Field: Ade Jones-Roundtree
  • Women’s Track & Field: Abena Atuobi
  • Volleyball: Kylee Levers
  • Wrestling: Jake Wentzel
  • Cheer: Matthew Nolan
  • Dance: Teegan Zeh

Gold Standard Administrator of the Year

  • Presented to a non-coaching staff member(s) of the athletic department who has gone above and beyond to ensure success and development of the student-athletes.
  • Winner: Pitt’s Sports Medicine Team for all their hard work during COVID-19

James Conner Comeback of the Year

  • Presented to a student-athlete who, having recovered from an injury, illness or hardship, returns to make a noteworthy contribution to their teams’ athletic success.
  • Winner: Rashad Weaver (Football)

 David Sandberg Champion Award

  • In memory of the former Pitt wrestler and assistant coach, this award is presented to the senior who best exemplifies the qualities that Sandberg embraced: dedication to academic and athletic excellence, with an unyielding spirit and passionate commitment to the improvement of the University of Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities.
  • Winner: David Yanni (Baseball)

 Male and Female Performance of the Year

  • Presented to a male and female student-athlete for the most remarkable or significant performance achieved in 2020-21.
  • Winners: Nino Bonaccorsi and Jake Wentzel (Wrestling) and Kayla Lund (Volleyball)

 Newcomer of the Year

  • Presented to the student-athlete who has made an immediate impact at Pitt in their first year of intercollegiate competition. Nominees may include freshmen and redshirts.
  • Winners: Valeria Vazquez Gomez (Volleyball) and Filip Mirkovic (Men’s Soccer)

 Team Moment of the Year

  • Presented in recognition of a striking performance by an individual or group in a specific competition that led to a shift in momentum.
  • Winner: Men’s Soccer first ACC Championship appearance in program history

 Male and Female Athlete of the Year

  • Presented to a male and female standout student-athlete who has demonstrated outstanding athletic performance during competition and has been instrumental to their teams’ success.
  • Winners: Blaise Vera (Men’s Swimming & Diving) and Amanda West (Women’s Soccer)

 Team of the Year

  • Reserved for the team that exemplified outstanding athletic achievement in the 2020-21 season.
  • Winner: Men’s Soccer

 Blue-Gold Award

  • Presented to the male and female senior student-athlete who best represents the student-athlete “ideal” based on academic scholarship, athletic achievement, leadership qualities and citizenship. These recipients will be forever recognized on the Varsity Walk.
  • Winners: Chinaza Ndee (Volleyball) and Jimmy Morrissey (Football), Jake Wentzel (Wrestling)

 Panther Award

  • Presented to the male and female senior student-athlete who has promoted Pittsburgh Athletics through his or her outstanding athletic achievement. These recipients will be forever recognized on the Varsity Walk.
  • Winners: Kayla Lund (Volleyball) and Rashad Weaver (Football), Patrick Jones II (Football)

Carson Graduate Fellowship Full Award

  • Stewarded to the best candidate who is of high moral character and has shown outstanding undergraduate academic achievement at the University of Pittsburgh, who demonstrates the potential for outstanding graduate study in continuing their graduate or professional education at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Winner: Monica McNeil (Women’s Track & Field)

Script Writer Award

  • Recognizes a student-athlete who best embraces Pitt Athletics’ seven bridges achieving comprehensive excellence within the classroom, on the field/court of play, within our University community, and within the city of Pittsburgh.
  • Winner: Monica McNeil (Women’s Track & Field)

Pitt VB into Round Three…!

Here is another well researched and written article on the Women’s Volleyball team’s progress through the tournament sent in by John in SC…

Pitt women’s volleyball’s next test in the NCAA tournament is PAC-12 winner the Washington Huskies.  Washington has a 19-3 record.  Their three losses were to Arizona State, #15 UCLA, and # 16 Oregon.  They also beat all three teams in their two-match series.  The other wins over ranked teams were two wins over #10 Utah by the scores of 3-0 and 3-1.  Washington is ranked #7 and was seeded #6 in the tournament.

As of this writing of the five teams from the PAC-12 in the tournament only Washington remains in the tournament.  Four of the five teams were seeded.  The three teams went down in the second round. Oregon got eliminated in the third round by #7 seed Purdue.

Washington has been pushing their luck in the tournament.  Dayton took them to 5 sets.  Washington won the first 2 sets, lost the next 2 sets, and won the last set 15-11.  Washington just barely beat Louisville.  Washington won the first and fourth sets, with Louisville winning sets two and three.  After beating Louisville 25-14 in the fourth set, Washington got off to a horrible start in the fifth set down 5-0.  They would also be down by 7-1 and 10-4 in the set. 

Louisville unfortunately fell apart and lost the set and therefore the match by a score of 15-13.  Washington and Louisville played their match on the same court after the Pitt victory over Minnesota so they have about 3 hours less rest ahead of the match than Pitt.

Here are the some of the awards the Huskies have received this year.  #7 Ella May Powell, 6’0”, was named PAC-12 Setter of the year.  Head Coach Keegan Cook was named PAC-12 Coach of the year.  In addition to Powell, #9 Samantha Drechsel, 6’4”, and #21 Claire Hoffman, 6’2”, were first team PAC-12.  #1, Lauren Sanders, 6’4”, and #12 Marin Grote, 6’4”, were honorable mention.  #18 Madi Endsley, 6’2”, made the All-Freshman team.

Washington’s hitting percentage is 0.256 while holding their opponents to 0.197.  They average 2.6 blocks per set.  They have 144 service aces to 198 service errors.  Dreshel, Hoffman, and Endsley make their offense go.  Between them they have 72% of the kills.  Not surprisingly the Huskies only use one setter, Powell.  Powell is third in digs on the team.  Drechsel and Grote are their leading blockers with numerous of secondary blockers.

Pitt is again facing a very tall team that is well coached.  They are not as battled tested as Minnesota.  Washington is very resilient and poised in the face of great adversity.  Louisville did us no favors by blowing the big lead in that last set.  Washington now probably feels they are a team of destiny.  With Pitt’s win over Minnesota, Washington will not be overconfident.  Pitt is the talk of the tournament now!

So, what can Pitt due to win this match?  In this match they need to concentrate on Drechsel and Hoffman.  They need to serve at their setter, Powell, and target her with our hits.  She cannot set if she has first contact.  Others have tried this tactic as shown by Powell being third in digs. 

Pitt again needs to communicate with the front line on who is across the net from them.  They need to tool their hits against blocks and look for openings.  They need to play as error free as possible.  Louisville did not and lost.

Pitt just had the biggest win in the history of the program on Sunday with their victory over Minnesota.  Pitt’s players were on an adrenaline high after the victory.  Coach Fisher hopefully calmed them down.  Hopefully they all came down from that natural high, crashed, and slept well.  This is going to be crucial for Pitt to win.  Pitt is no longer the hunter but the hunted.  They cannot feel pressured.  No one expected them to be in this spot.  That is how they need to play, loose, but under control!

What are Pitt’s chances for victory?  In a three set match Pitt wins.  That means Pitt came out fast and Washington never recovered.  I seriously doubt this happens.  Pitt will probably come out flat given the emotional drain of the Minnesota win.  I see this match going to four or five sets.  In four sets Pitt has a 60% chance of victory.  It is a coin toss, if it goes to five sets with only a 50% chance victory.  I am counting on the calmness of Coach Fisher to carry over to his team and bring us to victory! 

Hail to these fighting, scrappy Panthers!


Next Match: vs. Washington

4/19/2021 | Noon ET