The Lady Panthers Take on the Cornhuskers in VB

Ed: Here is another million word women’s volleyball article – especially welcome because, as John states below, WE ARE IN THE FINAL FOUR!! Enjoy reading this as I have...

For the first time in history, our #3 seed Pitt Women’s volleyball team has made it to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament.  It is also a first for any Pitt women’s team making it to a Final Four.  This is the third occurrence of a Pitt team making it to an NCAA Final Four.  Pitt men’s soccer team made it this spring.  Our men’s basketball team made it way back in 1941.  There is an old saying:  “The third time is a charm!”

Pitt will be playing #10 seed Nebraska at 9:30 PM on Thursday, December 16th.  The match will be televised on ESPN.  The match will take place in Columbus, Ohio.  Prior to Pitt’s match, #1 seed Louisville will take on #4 seed Wisconsin at 7:00 PM.  Root for Louisville and the ACC in that one.

Pitt got here by defeating Purdue 3-1 on Saturday.  The match started out pretty much as I thought it would.  Pitt and Purdue battled it out in the first three sets.  Pitt won sets one and three by identical 25-20 scores after Purdue managed to eke out a win in set 2, 30-28.  In the 4th set Pitt went on two 4-point, and one 5-point runs to pull away with an easy 25-15 set and match win.  This was Pitt first win ever over Purdue in 12 attempts.

Pitt made life difficult for Purdue’s two main weapons.  Newton had 16 kills on 56 attempts for a 0.107 hitting %.  Cleveland had 9 kills on 28 attempts for a 0.179 hitting %.  Pitt actually out blocked Purdue 9-8 which took away one Purdue’s best method of scoring.  Purdue’s setter had zero kills on 10 attempts with a hitting % of -0.200.  Serena Gray stuffed several of her attempts at the net.

Pitt lost the 2nd set due to 11 attack errors and 3 service errors.  Overall Pitt served well. They kept Purdue out of system, in general, even though the stats show only 5 aces to 8 error for the match.  Overall Pitt hit 0.311 versus 0.156 for Purdue.  Pitt’s hitting % for the 4 sets were 0.571, 0.122, 0.310, and 0.379.  Purdue hit a very good 0.476 in the first set.  In the next three sets they hit 0.143, 0.132, and 0.000.  That last number is not a typo!

Leketor Member-Meneh was the MVP of the Pittsburgh Regional.  Joining her on the All-Regional Team were Serena Gray, Rachel Fairbanks, and Chinaza Ndee.  Keep in mind that Rachel is a freshman and only became a starter in the second to last match of the season.

For all the other stats and info about the win here is the link to Pitt’s article about it.

Now for an analysis of Nebraska.  The Nebraska Cornhuskers are from the Big Ten conference.  They finished second in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin this year.  Their overall record for the year is 25-7.  Pitt will now have faced three of the eight Big Ten teams in the tournament.

Nebraska’s common opponents with Pitt were Louisville, Purdue, Penn State and Florida State.  Louisville swept them at Nebraska.  They defeated Purdue 3-1 both home and away.  They swept Penn State at home 3-0.  They swept Florida State in the 2nd round of the tournament this year at home.  Nebraska has made significant lineup changes since their sweep by Louisville.

Pitt lost to Louisville, home and away, 3-2 and 3-1 respectively.  They defeated Purdue, 3-1 at home as well as Penn State, 3-1.  Pitt beat Florida State, 3-1 away.  Kayla Lund did not play in the second Louisville match and Rachel Fairbanks was a fairly new starter.

Basically, Pitt and Nebraska are closely matched.  One would consider them even based on the schedule comparison.  Nebraska has gotten better as the season has gone on.  Their biggest win was against #2 seed Texas at Austin in the regional tournament final.  They lost twice to Wisconsin, home and away, with the last loss being the next to last match of the regular season.

More on next page…

A POVer’s Take on the State of Pitt BB

Here is Dan72’s view of the current state of the Pitt basketball program under Head Coach Jeff Capel and how it got to be this way. Pitt is 15-40 in the ACC under Jeff Capel. That is a fact…

First let me say the Capel knows more about basketball in one finger than I know in my whole body. Give him an equally talented team as the opposition and he will win 50% of the time. It’s all about recruiting! So all I have are thoughts and opinions, like all of you.

I will try to relate Jeff’s dilemma to my life in sales and managing sales. First thing I always did on a new sales managers job was to set up a few folks as advisors on “unintended consequences”. Silent killers of success!

I think Capel and staff suffer from two problems. The “law of unintended consequences” and focusing on today instead of thinking ahead.

Of all the sports coaching jobs, during a live game, a basketball coach cannot “get caught watching the paint dry”! His job during a game is to be thinking ahead, not just concentrating on the play in front of him. You have assistants for that. The thought has to be “if they do this, then I’ll counter with that! So we can argue over floor coaching prowess all day but creating a successful BB program really boils down to one thing …..RECRUITING! You can never just sit back and let recruiting happen!

Going back to four years, when Capel took this job, I think he was waiting for the stench of his coaching stint at Oklahoma to go away. After superstar Blake Griffen left his team for the pros Capel had no Plan B in place (again, there’s that looking ahead thing). More talented players defected OK during Capel’s last two years then when he was told mid season he’d be fired at year’s end, he had NO recruits lined up and little recruiting activity. Basketball is 70% talent and 30% coaching. Kinda like today, at Pitt.

Pitt seemed to be a high profile job for Capel and after the Stallings coaching fiasco the only way forward for Pitt’ program seemed to be up! Pitt was thrilled to have a Big Name hire and Capel jumped at the chance to coach here. Quickly he hired his brother and two close friends (also former HCs) to be his staff.

It’s my belief that Capel thought his name alone would bring in recruits. Friends of mine working in the scouting business told me that at Pitt under Capel every shortcut was taken to get recruits. Capel thought by going after big name recruits, he would attract one or two and then surely lessor players would then be honored to come to Pitt. This was a flawed strategy from the start.

Recruiting, like sales, is all about putting in tons of time meeting parents, HS coaches, street agents
etc. CREATING RELATIONSHIPS IS WHAT CREATES SALES! From what I hear that base was never set and that footwork was never done. Thus the unintended consequence was where we are at this moment with zero recruits and Capel having to depend on the transfer portal (which did not exist at his time at Ok.)

Then Capel, out of last minute desperation, started picking up talented but flawed players to fill out his roster. The big names never came to Pitt. Champagne was a good get but no superstar until he got to Pitt. This is the ACC, the best and most talented NCAA D1 League. It’s all about shooting percentage. When I asked my scouting friends about Horton, Sibande, Jeffries et al, the reply from coaches and scouts was the same “great HS players all – but doubt they are ACC level great! “

Appearances and perceptions are everything in sales and recruiting. Capel had to overcome several negative issues with recruits. He was told when hired that there would no cash payouts to players and no contact with street agents. Then after Heather disciplined Hugley after he stole a hooker’s car when she was staying at the dorms with him and his buds during the summer, Pitt was rumored to be a racist school on the recruiting trail. Perceptions are everything and are hard to change.

It takes very hard work and many hours of travel to recruit in general. Then to overcome the above issues is even harder work! That’s where I see the problem with Pitt Basketball! People in the know tell me that work was not done! You have to build from the bottom up and that wasn’t the Capel plan.

So here we are. We’ve lost to UMBC, Monmouth and barely survived Towson. Capel has had six high profile players transfer out over the years. He’s had two players with horrible legal issues while at Pitt. There’s that law of unintended consequences. He seems busy prepping a team (which will not win an ACC game this year) for the next game only with no real foresight as to the program’s health.

The loss of Sibande and Horton really hurt but a coach needs to plan for just those instances. Where are the young recruits who should be learning behind them ?? Pitt has a walk-on and a tall high dribbling poor shooting guard on the perimeter. That’s it! On top of everything else our shooting in general has been abysmal for four years. Especially from the foul line which are uncontested points.

One last thing; dealing with players who aren’t D1 talent is like rearranging the band’s chairs on the Titanic! So while I might question floor strategy – like the flubbed inbound play, It’s the least of Pitt’s problems. If I’m Heather, I have only two options.

Fire Capel outright or have him release his current staff in favor of some young upcoming assistant coaches who are proven recruiters. I see little else that can be done….. and recruiting for next season is ongoing.

What say you??