Volleyball 2021 Preview- Blue/Gold Scrimmage Game

Here is a take on the first Women’s Volleyball scrimmage by our own Ann B.

Pitt volleyball had their Blue/Gold Scrimmage on Saturday. Teams were divided up with experienced talent spread between the two sides.

Gold Team:

Lexis Akeo (JR-setter)

Valeria Vazquez Gomez (R-SO -Outside Hitter)

Chinaza Ndee (5Y- Right Side)

Anastasia Russ (R-SO- Middle Blocker)

Jordan Lockwood (SR- Outside Hitter)

Rachel Fairbanks (FR- Setter)

Emmy Klinka (FR- Libero/Defensive Specialist)

Makayla Jackson (FR- Middle Blocker)

Blue Team:

Cat Flood (SO- Outside Hitter)

Ashley Browske (JR- Libero/Defensive Specialist)

Kylee Levers (GR- Setter)

Sabrina Starks (SR- Middle Blocker)

Leketor Member-Meneh (SR- Outside Hitter)

Eliana Posada (FR- Right Side)

Chiamaka Nwokolo (JR- Middle Blocker/Right Side)

Serena Gray (SR- Middle Blocker)

Kayla Lund (GR-Outside Hitter)

Scoring was the usual way- sets were played to 25, win by 2, except sets 4 and 5 were played to 15.  The gold team beat the blue team 3 sets to 2 by scores of 25-21, 25-22, 19-25, 14-16, 15-11.

Here are my thoughts and unofficial stats on each player ( I was talking to the parent of one of the players and missed a few plays and may have given credit to the wrong person). Note that although I consider myself semi-educated in the volleyball world, I am in no way an expert in evaluation of talent. So much of how a player performs has do with the players around them, the familiarity they have with each other, especially the middle blocker/setter connection. It is early in the pre-season- they just finished the first week of practice.

Gold Team

Lexis Akeo– Experienced Setter from the past 2 years. Undersized at 5’8”, but is a very solid player. Lexis played well, as expected.

Valeria Vazques Gomez– A solid starter from last year and a six-rotation outside hitter. Valeria looked great on offense and defense, with 10 kills and 1.5 blocks.

Chinaza Ndee– Six-rotation right side hitter and a second team All-American last year, along with a long list of other performance and academic awards. Chi picked up where she left off in April and played great. Unofficially 18 kills, 4.5 blocks, 1 ace.

Anastasia Russ– A backup middle blocker from last year had four kills and three blocks. At 6’5”, she’s the tallest player on the team but seems lanky and slow on attacking the ball. Played locally for Hampton HS.

Jordan Lockwood– Solid outside hitter who transferred in last year. Jordan had 14 kills, 1.5 blocks, and one ace for a very good performance. She’s come a long way in a year.

Emmy Klika– Freshman libero. Played way better than I would expect from a freshman. Very active on the court, moved well, had many really nice digs on rocket shots hit at her. I expect her to do very well here.

Rachel Fairbanks- Freshman setter, shared setting duties with Lexis Akeo. She was not as accurate as Lexis and played like a freshman- some good and some needing improvement.

Makayla Jackson– Freshman middle blocker, five kills, 2.5 blocks. This local player (Plum HS), had some very nice plays, offensively and defensively. I think she will be a good one as she gets used to the speed of the game.

Blue Team

Cat Flood- Sophomore backup outside hitter last season. I have her at seven kills, one block, one ace. She had difficulty hitting past a single block (who happened to be Chinaza Ndee, so maybe I should give her a pass). She needs more time to develop, and luckily, should not be needed to step in to a starter’s position anytime soon.

Ashley Browske– Junior starting libero from last season. Ashley played well by covering the floor quickly and made a lot of very good defensive plays, picking up where she left off this spring.

Kylee Levers– Graduate starting setter from last year. Local talent who played like an experienced player should. No complaints here.

Sabrina Starks– Senior starting middle blocker from last year. With five kills, three blocks and one ace, she played a solid match. Plays in the front line only.

Leketor Member-Meneh– Senior outside hitter who transferred in from Missouri. At 5’8”, I was skeptical of her ability to play. Boy was I wrong. She got my vote for outstanding player of the game. With 22 kills and 2.5 blocks, she plays WAY bigger than her size. She’s a powerful hitter from the front and back rows, and has amazing hops. She is going to be FUN to watch!

Eliana Posada– Freshman right side, plays in the front line only. I don’t have any stats for her which is not unusual for a freshman. I really did not see her involved in a lot of plays.

Chiamaka Nwokolo– A junior middle blocker from last season, Chi played right side on Saturday and played well. She started out slowly in the first set and got stronger as the match went on, finishing with15 kills and .5 blocks.

Serena Gray– Senior middle blocker who transferred in from Penn State. A two time AVCA All-America Honorable Mention who was a starter for the Nitters. Finished with 11 kills, one block and three aces. She’s a very powerful hitter and plays in the front row only. She would have had better stats but this is one of the instances where the setter/middle blocker relationship needs time to gel a bit. She’ll be very fun to watch and a dominant net player once she has some practice time with Kylee.

Kayla Lund– Most decorated player in Pitt’s Volleyball history with academic and athletic performance awards too numerous to mention. DID NOT PLAY, as she was limping around with what looked like a bad left knee. I don’t know the seriousness of the injury, and the parent I was talking to had not heard about the injury beforehand. Fingers crossed that she’ll be ready for regular season play.

The scrimmage was very well-played. There were a few missed serves, but early in the season that is to be expected. Players aren’t usually in game condition yet, so that also will contribute to misses. Volleys were fast-paced and really competitive, with players diving after balls and making some incredible plays. I found myself saying “Wow” A LOT. I am really looking forward to this season.

Also, the Field House looked great. Tarping at the ends of the court was really nice, and it looked like they got a new court floor. Everyone except the players and coaches had to wear masks, and the first couple of rows by the court were roped off to keep the fans away from the players. Seating was on one side of the court only.

If you are in town, support the ladies and watch them play this fall! H2P!!

Coach Fisher tweeted on Saturday

A Preseason Look at Virginia

Another sterling article by Rich in SC…

Marc Bronco Mendenhall enters his sixth season as head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers (VA). Bronco, prior to his arrival in VA, was the head coach at Brigham Young University (BYU) . In his eleven years at the helm, BYU amassed an overall record of 99-43.

After a 2-10 (1-7 conference) first season, Bronco’s teams have gone 28-22 (17-16 conference, 10-3 Out of conference (OOC), one conference championship loss, and 1-2 in bowl games).

What do the 2020 NCAA stats say about Virginia’s 5-5 record.

I knew this info existed but I did not think about using this until this article. I should have used this is the leadoff chart in every article.

Do stats lie? Sometimes they do or more context is needed. In this case, The VA leader in individual QB Pass Efficiency is a punter.

On to the review. Of course, the schedules.

Some neat things to point out in the VA schedule notably a bye in the tenth week of a 13 week season. At least the bye is before the Notre Dame (ND) OOC home game. Speaking of the OOC schedule, VA is playing three Power 5 (P5) opponents – Illinois, ND and an away game at BYU, Bronco’s old team. (The ACC, Big10, & Big12 conferences consider BYU a P5 team for scheduling purposes.) Virginia gets to play back to back non Saturday games – Friday 9/24 home game with Wake and Thursday 9/30 away game at Miami.

The recruiting part of the review.

All five classes are exclusively Bronco’s. Started off slow with the 2017 and 2018 rounding up to an average 5.5 rating / 3* recruit using Rivals Numerical Ranking (NRR). His last three classes have improved to a rounded  average of 5.6 recruit with the 2020 actually topping that mark at 5.607.

Any transfer portal (TP) entries?

Of course, there are. Clemson is the only ACC team that has not taken anyone off the TP.

The best of the group is TE Jelani Woods from Oklahoma State. He will probably be the starter. The surprise of the group is the 2017 5.5, 3* from Harvard. I believe I read the Chico Bennett had an offseason injury and will miss the 2021 season. Anthony Johnson the 2017 CB will have a good shot at starting. He joins a Cavalier team that ranked #123, giving up 304.4 yards per game. It’s a good thing Reed is not a Virginia fan. He would be having a conniption. (Ed Note: True…)

Who are the players to know?

As usual, I start with returning 2020 All ACC selections. With the announcement of the 2021 preseason all ACC 27 member team, I have marked the single selection in Bold. This is followed by additional names not on the returning list but on the Athlon 2021 preseason selections.

Virginia is projected to have one of the better Oline’s in the ACC.

That wraps up the recruiting, TP entries and names to know portion of my review. On to Virginia ‘s player losses.

Who did the Cavaliers lose to the NFL? Those names in Bold where 2020 All ACC selections.

I just added Zane Zandier to the list because he went to local high school Thomas Jefferson (TJ).

Like all teams, Virginia lost some players to the TP:

Jowon Briggs (2019 5.9, 4*) is probably the best of the bunch. He entered the TP with four games left to play in the season (one of them ended up being cancelled). As a Cincinnati native, he announced his transfer to Cincinnati eight days after entering the portal.

Snap counts. I have added total team pass and run attempts to the chart. Should have done it earlier. You can assume that the QB made the same percentage of handoff’s to non QB’s as he made percentage of pass attempts. Not very accurate but will get you in the ballpark of total snaps.

Virginia runs different offenses depending on who is taking the snaps at QB. Armstrong and Armstead are more run-pass option (RPO) QB’s. Stone is a pro style QB. Thompson is a “Wildcat” QB. Thompson is also known to line up as a Wide receiver.

Virginia’s 186 running plays by RB’s/ WR (six in total) went for 748 yards or 4.0 yards per carry (y/c). One of the six has moved on to his life’s work. Virginia’s returning five players (who had at least one carry) are 129 carries, 470 yards for 3.6 y/c. The transfer from Harvard was an All-Ivy league first team selection.

Now for a bonus fun with numbers exercise, The POV has been discussing Kenny Pickett (KP) and his stats including Passing Efficiency (PE), yards per attempt (Y/A), touchdowns (TD) and interceptions (INT) thrown amongst others. Mainly in those discussions , KP was not put in a good light. Would it make any difference to Pitt’s overall record if KP’s passing efficiency was in the top 31% of all 2020 eligible QB’s? (Ed Note: Not really but go for it…)

Now for my usual wordy explanation. I get my stats I use from the NCAA. Link:

 NCAA Statistics

This link will take you to the NCAA home page. Every stat on this page is for “TEAM” statistics. For individual stats, you need to click on the “INDIVIDUAL” tab.

If you do find your way to the individual passing efficiency ranking and click on it you will see this header line.

It holds just eleven items:  Rank, player (name, school, conference). Class (CL), Position (POS),  Games Played (G) (Games the player played in. Not the  games the Team played) , and the meat of the data:  Pass Attempts, Pass Completions, Interceptions (INT), Pass Yards, Pass TD and finally Pass Efficiency which is just a calculation based on the prior five numbers.

Notice there is nothing about Y/A, Yards per Completion (Y/C), Completion % (Comp%), Yards per Game (Y/G) and so on. All of those are calculated based on one or more of those five numbers and sometimes a sixth – Games played. Those categories have their own tab in either the team or individual main tab.

How did I come up with top 31%? That is easy. There are 108 QB’s eligible per NCAA standards ( Min. 15 Attempts Per Game | Must play in 75% of team’s games). 108*.31 = 33.48.  Notre Dame’s Ian Book was the 33rd ranked QB. If Book was #33 what would KP need to do to match that ranking.

Here are KP’s and Ian Book’s line straight off the NCAA PE page.

Before I start let me give the formula for Passing Efficiency (PE) and an example using KP’s numbers.

((8.4*Passing yards) + (330* Touchdown Passes) + (100*Completions) (200*Interceptions)) / Passing Attempts:

I set up the chart below. I changed one of the four numbers I mentioned to mimic Ian Book’s number one at a time. I then held that constant for the remaining numbers. I held the fifth (pass attempts) constant. Aggregate and individual changes are shown at the bottom of the chart:

All it would have taken to be a top 31% (instead of top 61%) in QB PE was nine more completions, 255 more yards, two more TD’s and six less INT’s. Except for the INT’s all were doable. Even more doable was throwing only three less INT’s but adding another TD.

I had fun doing this chart. Reed was right in his assessment of Y/A and Y/C as a major factor in assessing a QB’s performance. I had never run the numbers before but Y/A (Y/A was how I calculated passing yards) was the biggest change factor in passing efficiency.

Pitt Kickoff Luncheon 8/27/21


Story Links

PITTSBURGH—Newly inducted Pro Football Hall of Famer Jimbo Covert will serve as keynote speaker at the 2021 Pitt Football Kickoff Luncheonpresented by Huntington on August 27.

A star offensive tackle at Pitt from 1978-82 before going on to an All-Pro career with the Chicago Bears, Covert will join Coach Pat Narduzzi, Director of Athletics Heather Lyke and the 2021 Pitt football senior class at the Kickoff Luncheon, which will be held at the Westin Pittsburgh.

Kickoff Luncheon 2021

Tickets for the 2021 Pitt Football Kickoff Luncheon are $60. A table of 10 costs $550, while a table with a Pitt head coach is $800. To reserve a seat or table, click here. Doors open at 11 a.m., followed by lunch and the formal program at noon.

Covert was a fixture on Pitt’s punishing offensive fronts during the early 1980s. As a consensus All-American his senior season, he did not give up a single sack. The Panthers went 31-5 during Covert’s three years as a starter, finishing in the nation’s Top 10 each season.

Covert was chosen in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft (sixth overall) by the Chicago Bears and head coach Mike Ditka, himself a former Pitt All-American who is a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee.

With Covert as a spearhead, the Bears led the NFL in rushing four consecutive seasons from 1983-86. His teammate, Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, called him “the best offensive tackle in the NFL.”

Covert was a vital part of Chicago’s famed 1985 team—considered one of the finest in NFL history—that went 15-1 and demolished the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX, 46-10. He would play eight decorated seasons in Chicago (1983-90) and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s.

Pitt football tickets for the 2021 season are now on sale. Fans can purchase full seven-game season ticket packages for as low as $175, while lower bowl seats are available starting at only $205.

Flexible payment plans are available. For more information, click here or call (800) 643-7488.

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2021 Frankcan Cup Golf Outing UPDATE

HERE IS A LAST REMINDER – KUDOS TO BERNIE (BIGB) FOR THE TROPHY PHOTOSP/S: I kept the original comments and just re-posted…

Location:  Meadia Heights Golf Club, Lancaster, PA (where Jim Furyk played his junior golf)

Date:  Saturday, August 21, 2021

Time:  noon to 1pm tee times (lunch served prior to golf).

Format: Four (4) person team “step aside” scramble golf tournament (18 holes). 

Cost: $85 per individual (includes golf and lunch – the club’s 19th Hole will be open after golf for meal & drink – additional cost to you).

Lodging: DoubleTree Hilton, Lancaster, PA is within a few miles and numerous other hotel options in Amish Country, USA.

NOTE: The cost per player is the same as 2019.

Prizes: 1st place team gets to hold the Frankcan Cup for the year plus individual prizes for the 1st and 2nd place teams, longest drive, closest to the pin, straightest drive and longest putt.

Payment: Due today, August 1st – some have paid and others have alerted me that their payment is on its way. 

I look forward to another fun day of fellowship with good to great Pitt fans.

To those who could not attend this year’s outing, please know that you will be missed – we have always had a good time at these golf outings.

Editor: Here is a graphic and description of the “Step Aside Scramble” rules. Don’t worry if you can’t read this very well – Rick Caldwell will explain everything at the luncheon before play. I think I got them down correctly.

Step Aside Scramble Played as a normal scramble except that the player whose ball is selected ‘steps aside’ and doesn’t play the next shot.

On the starting tee all three players tee off. Player A’s drive is selected so only Players B & C play the second shot.

Player B’s second shot is selected and ‘steps aside’ while Player A & C play the third shot and so on until the ball is in the hole and the score for the hole is determined.

Whoever sinks the putt then ‘steps aside’ and only two players tee off on the next hole. Players may take their shots in any order as this is part of the tactics of the game.

Enjoy guys…. Maybe I’ll pop in for a drink or something…