The Panthers Take on the Boilermakers

Here is another detailed and well written article by John Demko about the woman’s volleyball team facing Purdue tomorrow. They are doing as well as our football team… Huh, in past years that wouldn’t be such a good thing! But – 2021 is a special year for Pitt sports and with that the Men’s BB team won last night. Will wonders ever cease?

For the second year in a row our #3 seed Pitt Women’s volleyball team has made it to the Elite Eight/Regional Final.  This time they are hosting it at the Fitzgerald Field House.  They will play #6 seed Purdue at 4:00 PM on Saturday, December 11th.  The match will be televised on ESPNU.  If you live near Pittsburgh, get your butt in a seat at the Fitz!

Pitt got here by defeating Kansas 3-0 on Thursday.  Except for the very slow 3-8 start in the first set, Pitt was pretty much in control the entire match.  In the first set they had a 10-point run to take the lead.  Kayla Lund was the server during the run and had two service aces during it.  In each set Pitt would take control in the middle of the set and never let Kansas threatened again.

Pitt hit 0.356 vs. 0.277 for Kansas.  Chinaza Ndee led the Panthers with 14 kills and hit an incredible 0.632.  Member-Meneh was the only other Panther with double digit kills with 11, hitting 0.280.  Kansas out blocked Pitt 5-9.  Pitt won the serve game with 9 aces/6 errors versus 2 aces/6 errors for Kansas.  Member-Meneh had 30 serve receptions with only 2 errors!  Kansas was targeting her with the serve but she was more than up to the task!

Now for an analysis of Purdue.  The Purdue Boilermakers are from the Big Ten conference.  They finished tied for 4th in the conference with Minnesota.  The Big Ten placed 8 teams in the tournament versus 6 for the ACC.  Purdue’s record is 26-6.

Purdue’s common opponents with Pitt were Kansas, Louisville, Tennessee, BYU, and Penn State.  Louisville swept them at a neutral site.  They swept Kansas at a neutral site and Tennessee at home.  They defeated Penn State at home 3-2.  They defeated BYU 3-2 at Pitt on Thursday.

Pitt lost to Louisville, home and away, 3-2 and 3-1 respectively.  They defeated Tennessee 3-2 away.  Pitt beat both BYU and Penn State 3-1 at home.

Basically, Pitt and Purdue are closely matched with Pitt having the slight edge.  One thing to know about Purdue, this season they are a very tough out!  They have defeated two teams ranked #3 at the time of play and one team ranked #4.  Two of these three wins were against Big Ten champion and #4 seed Wisconsin.  The other win being against Ohio State.

In the tournament so far, they swept Illinois State in the 1st round.  In the 2nd round they had to come back from a two-set deficit to defeat Dayton.   They won the 4th set 25-6 and the 5th set 15-5.  In the 3rd round against BYU they got behind 2-1 before rallying and winning the last two sets.  The 5th set went to 18-16.

Purdue is hitting 0.255 for the season versus 0.169 for their opponents.  For comparison Pitt is hitting 0.286 versus 0.189 for their opponents.  Purdue has 141 service aces versus 217 service errors.  Purdue runs a 5-1 offense with #2 redshirt senior Hayley Bush being their setter.  She stands 5’10”.  With a 5/1 Bush will be at the net for three rotations out of six.

Purdue’s leading hitter is #4 Caitlyn Newton.  Newton is a 6’-1” fifth-year player outside hitter.  Their second leading hitter is #20 Grace Cleveland.  Cleveland is a 6’-3” outside hitter senior.  These two hitters have more than twice as many kills as the rest of the team.  

Purdue is a good blocking team averaging 2.99 blocks per set.  Pitt averages 2.40 blocks per set.  Purdue has four main blockers.  They are #7 6’-1’ freshman middle blocker Colvin Raven, #17 sophomore 6’-2” middle blocker Taylor Trammel, #18 6’-2” senior middle blocker Jael Johnson, and #20 Grace Cleveland.  Trammel did not play against BYU.

Something to note, three of the four main blockers are middles.  Therefore, at most, only two of their main blockers will be on the court at a time.  When Cleveland is not on the front line, there will be only one of their main blockers on the court.  A player cannot block from the back by rule.

Here are the keys to the game for Pitt.

  • Shutdown Purdue’s two main hitters.  Make the rest of the team score.
  • Use all the attackers on the front line.  Purdue is used to 5-1 opponents as the Big Ten teams favors that offense.  Pitt’s depth will be a big asset here.
  • Know where the setter is on the front line.  Attack the opposite side or in the middle if possible.  Their middles will be leaning toward the setter side.
  • Attack a solo setter at the net.
  • Serve well.  Pitt is a better serving team.
  • Play within themselves.  Do not try to do too much.  Minimize unforced errors.
  • Minimize Purdue’s chances to block.  Move the attack around.  Purdue needs their blocks to score.
  • Never count Purdue out of a point, set or the match.  Attack, attack, attack!

Somethings to expect from Purdue.

  • They will concentrate on blocking Rachel Fairbanks when she is on the front line.
  • They will serve to Member-Meneh most.  Lund will be receiving the second most serves when either of them are in the back row.
  • They will try to use two person blocks on our outside hitters.  Pitt can attack from the middle blocker position to keep them “honest”.
  • The setter will try to score on surprise “dinks” over the net when she is on the front line.

Who do I expect will win the match?  I think Pitt matches up well with Purdue.  Pitt can win the match in 4 sets.  If fact, if the match is over in 4 sets, I would expect a Pitt victory.  If it goes to 5 sets, things get interesting.  Purdue has more experience with 5 set matches but I still give the edge to Pitt.

Expect all sets to be close!  Be warned!  The match will not be for the faint of heart!

Hail to Pitt!

Awards Awards Awards

Jordan Addison won the Bilitnikoff last night and deservedly so. It was a win for the “little guy” in every sense of the word, given that he was up against someone from Alabama, and also because he’s not the tallest dude on the block.

Addison and Pickett were also named Walter Camp 1st team All-Americans. Another win for Pitt.

I am still skeptical that Pickett will win the Heisman, given the politics that (I believe) go into it, but we all know that no player has meant more to his team, or has been more “outstanding”. But we are wearing Pitt-colored glasses, and even the infamous “fake slide” probably won’t be enough to boost Pitt’s loyal son over the Alabama Bryce Young Juggernaut (sadly).

For the record the official criteria for Heisman winners includes the words “Diligence, perseverance, and hard work”. If that isn’t Kenny Pickett I don’t know what is.

The Heisman Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the most outstanding player in college football. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. It is presented by the Heisman Trophy Trust in early December before the postseason bowl games.

Hail to Pitt

Michaelangelo Monteleone