2022 Preseason Pitt Women’s Volleyball Report

By John In South Carolina

Pitt’s 2022 women’s volleyball season in almost ready to start.  The Blue-Gold scrimmage will be played Saturday, August 20th, at 1 PM in the Fitz.  The regular season starts on Friday, August 26th with San Diego at Texas A&M’s Invitational.  Pitt’s ACC schedule starts on Friday, September 23rd against UNC at the Fitz.  This is a match I plan to attend in person and actually will be the first time I see Pitt play in their home gym, ever!

I did a Production Loss article for the POV back in June on how much the Pitt roster has changed from last year.  It was patterned on and inspired by PITT-cocks Fan’s great Production Loss articles that have informed and entertained us all summer.  One can view the article under Archives in the June section.  Below is Pitt’s roster for the upcoming season.

PositionNo.PlayerHeightYears of EligibilityNotes
Middle Blocker6Rachel Jepsen6’4″4 
 20Chiamaka Nwokolo6’1″2MB/RS
 21Serena Gray6’2″1 
 11Sabrina Starks6’2″1 
Outside7Julianna Dalton6’5″3 
 8Courtney Buzzerio6’5″1RS/S/6 Pos.
 2Valeria Vazquez Gomez6’1″36 Pos.
 5Cam Ennis6’0″1OH/S
 3Cat Flood6’2″3 
 18Eliana Posada6’2″3RS
Setter1Lexis Akeo5’8″2 
 10Rachel Fairbanks6’0″3OH/6 Pos.
Libero/Defensive Specialist16Dillyn Griffin5’8″4
 4Ashley Browske5’10”2
 12Emmy Klika5’7″3

VolleyballMag.com ranked Pitt’s incoming players #9 in the nation.  The only other ACC team ranked was UNC at #10.  North Carolina State and Duke were among the Honorable Mentions.  This is their take on the players:

“Incoming freshmen: Rachel Jepson, 6-4, MB, Olympus (Holladay, Utah), Club V; Dillyn Griffin, 5-8, libero, Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, California), A4
Transfers: Courtney Buzzerio, 6-5, RS, Grad., Iowa; Cam Ennis, 6-0, OH, Grad., Kansas/Texas A&M; Julianna Dalton, 6-5, OH, Soph., Washington State

Synopsis: Dalton is a 6-5 outside coming from Washington State and trained with Pitt this past spring. “Julianna is a big-time get,” Panthers coach Dan Fisher said. “She has played at a high level in club and college and knows how to work hard. We know she brings a physical presence at the net, but is also committed to being an all-around player. We expect Julianna to have a big impact on our program.” Fisher calls Buzzerio a “proven point-scorer,” and someone who “fills an immediate need,” he said. “We expect her to have a big impact, bringing physicality, experience and leadership.” Ennis will help the Panthers on the left side. “Cam is a much-needed piece for us on the left side,” Fisher noted. Jepson, out of Utah, is a 2022 VolleyballMag.com Fab 50 selection. “Rachel possesses the rare combination of incredible talent and humility,” Fisher said. “We have extremely high expectations and know she can be an elite college volleyball middle blocker.” Griffin is a highly decorated back row player out of Foothill Ranch, California. “I believe this is our most physical and experienced recruiting class to date,” Fisher said. “We have three Power 5 transfers who will have an immediate impact. In addition, we have added two highly ranked freshmen who we expect to compete right away. With this talented group joining our returning players, we are confident in our chances to compete for an ACC championship.””  From the article by Mike Miazga posted at Volleyballmag.com on 8/8/2022.

The most surprising thing about the passage is that we are weak at the left OH position.  Apparently, Dalton, Gomez, Flood, and Posada have not been very impressive there.  If Ennis is our best option, we may not be a strong as a lot of people think.  Ms. Dalton better work on her left side technique if she wants to see a great deal of playing time and become a six-rotation player!

OK now on to our starting 8 players.  I will start with the easiest areas first.  At setter we will have Lexis Akeo and Rachel Fairbanks as Fisher stays with the 6-2.  For now, we will assume Rachel will not play on the front line.  At middle blocker we will have Serena Gray and Chiamaka Nwokolo.  Courtney Buzzerio will take one of our six rotation player positions.  Julianna Dalton will take over the second OH position substitution that Chinaza Ndee held for the last two years giving Pitt a continuous 6’-5” RS.  Next year Julianna needs to make the jump to being a six-position player.  At libero we may have our first competition for position.  Will Emmy Klika displace last year’s starter Ashley Browske?  If Emmy continues the development that she showed through last year, this may be a distinct possibility.

The position most in doubt is the second six rotation player.  The most likely player to fill this would be Valeria Gomez.  Apparently, Cam Ennis is also in the mix for the position based on Fisher’s comments.  Cam is a more experienced back row player than Gomez.  Gomez has the edge in the front row and serving.  Hopefully Gomez can work on her left side attack and take this position.  If one of our setters gets injured then Gomez wins this competition by default as Ennis is our insurance setter.  So that is a summary of our starting lineup.

Who are the next players off the bench?  In the beginning of the season, it will the following.  On the front outsides it would be Curt Flood and/or Valeria Gomez if she loses out to Ennis.  In the backrow it will be the loser of the libero battle.  In the middle it will be Sabrina Stark. Later on in the season I expect the following changes to occur in first-off-the-bench.  Rachel Jepsen will displace Sabrina Starks.  She was the star of the Notre Dame recruits before they canned their coach.  Dan Fisher swooped in and flipped her during Notre Dame’s coaching search.  I expect her to be a 6’-4” version of Serena Gray.  She is supposed to be that good.  She may be brought in as a server as a way to ease her into playing time.  We also should expect to see Dillyn Griffin as Coach Fisher may follow the trend to use more defensive specialists in the back row.  Do not be surprised if we go with a libero and a defensive specialist at the same time especially if we have Courtney Buzzerio in the back as the backrow attacker.

So, who has to perform at or above expectations for Pitt to match last year’s performance?  First, Courtney Buzzerio has to have a year at Pitt like she those has had at Iowa.  She needs to be our number one threat!  Second, Julianna Dalton has to improve over the impressive freshman year at WSU.  If she can become our second six-rotation player THIS year that would be fantastic.  Rachel Fairbanks and Serena Gray have to maintain the high level of play expected of them.  If Julianna cannot make the jump to becoming the six-rotation player, one of the other OHs would need to have a Leketor Member-Meneh like season.  We need three scorers besides the middle blockers on the court at all times.  Last year we had Kayla Lund, Member-Meneh, and Chinaza Ndee.  Lund and Member-Meneh were our left side scorers.

The coaching staff has one change.  Michael Fisher is our volunteer assistant coach replacing Morgan Thomas.   Michael is no relation to Dan Fisher and played his college volleyball at St. Francis in Loretto, PA.  Morgan was hired as an assistant coach at TCU and is their recruiting coordinator.  She made a very wise move spending one year under Fisher even if it was without pay.

Some words about Pitt’s OOC this year.  The toughest team on the schedule is BYU on BYU’s home court.  The Cincinnati match in the BYU tournament also may be a tough match that early in the season.  Ohio State at Pitt will be the second toughest match.  The RPI for the OOC will not be as great as it was last year so Pitt cannot to stumble out of the gate or within the ACC.  The other top two teams in the ACC scheduled their OOC as tough as Pitt.  Georgia Tech also has BYU and Ohio State along with Dayton.  Louisville has an even tougher schedule with Purdue, Kentucky, Stanford, and Xavier.  UNC, for once, actually scheduled two Big Ten teams on their OOC: Michigan and Michigan State.  Duke also has an impressive OOC.

Pitt will be ranked just outside of the top ten at the start of this season and will have to play their way into it.  To do that they would have to be undefeated in the OOC or have only one loss, to BYU.  This is entirely possible.

As the OOC winds up I will publish an update of how Pitt did as well as what I believe Pitt will do in the ACC this year.  Presently I do not see them as one of the top two teams in the conference.  Louisville and Georgia Tech will occupy those two spots.

As always: Hail to Pitt!

31 thoughts on “2022 Preseason Pitt Women’s Volleyball Report

  1. John – Thanks for the update. Nice read and takes. In your opinion, is this a rebuild year or are ACC teams stepping up their programs?

    Didn’t realize that volleyball games started so early.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pitt is not in a rebuilding year. They have the personnel to be a top ten team in the nation. It may take a few matches before all the parts mess into such a team though. Louisville, who almost beat the eventual NCAA champion Wisconsin, lost very little from last year. They lost their setter and an All-American outside hitter. They will be ranked in the top five until they lose. Georgia Tech has the current ACC player of the year, Julia Bergmann. She will repeat as ACC player of the year. Georgia Tech is a top ten team as well. Short answer other two ACC teams have stepped up their programs in the last several years along with Pitt

      Liked by 1 person

  2. John until last year I knew diddly about volleyball and I admit that I am still FAR FAR from fully understanding
    the nuances of the sport. You are my volleyball professor and I really appreciate your efforts to educate unknowing fans like me about one of Pitt’s best sports teams. Now if we can pull an upset and defeat BYU>>WOWZA.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Wow, what a surprising performance by Pickett, and good pub for Pitt as well. Was anyone else expecting that? I hope he continues to perform well as things get tougher, its a great football story.


    Liked by 2 people

  4. Fantastic job Professor John. Now I have 3 fall sports to get excited about….Pitt FB, Pitt Vball, and Team Pickett! Perhaps we should have a POV Day/Night for a VB game!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I think KP may have brought some Steeler fans to maybe root for Pitt more. Well maybe not WV or PSU Steeler fans.


  6. John, thanks for the vball article. Not going to lie, when I saw the roster and the size, part of me was hoping it was a womens basketball article and it was just mis-titled! Was at a club vball tournament a couple of months ago in Cbus. Wow, the popularity has exploded! Teams from everywhere it seemed! The Lady Panthers will do well this year for sure. That said, how do you see the depth? I thought there could be a libero depth issue last year….but Annie set me straight! 🙂

    Time will tell with KP. Awesome start to the pre-season. I started looking at yards per attempt the last few years as well as turnovers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The depth will depend on players that are unknowns such as Flood and Posada. Ennis and Fisher’s comments about her are the wild card. While adequate, she was not a world beater at Texas A&M last year. I am hoping she can improve her game immensely such a Leketor did last year. Valeria is also another player that has great potential and thought for sure she would be one of our six rotation players this year before reading what coach had to say about Ennis. She played for Puerto Rico on their senior team this summer in international competition.


  7. John, nice article. Thanks. Two comments- Posada is a RS, not OH. I was not impressed with her during last year’s Blue-Gold game or at this spring’s games. I thought Juliana Dalton was a solid OH hitter. I took Fisher’s comments about her to mean she needs to work on her back row play, not the net play. She was solid this spring.

    I will be at the Blue-Gold game next Saturday so I’ll give you my thoughts after that. Thanks for the coverage of our team!

    A side note, my son played on the PA High Performance team with Michael Fisher in 2015 I think. He ran into Fisher and a bunch of the Pitt players at a recent outdoor grass vb tourney in South Park. Rachael Fairbanks and her partner ( not a current Pitt player) went to the semi-finals if I remember correctly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comments, Annie. Hopefully your son agrees with the hire of Michael Fisher. I would be interested to know how Dalton does on the backrow as well as on the left side. I thought originally that Ennis was added late for setter insurance and for the back row. I am surprised that Fisher is quoted as saying “she is a much-needed piece on our left side”. After the scrimmage hopefully you will write an article on your thoughts about the team. So many questions about how Fisher will use the various players.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. John, you and Annie have made volleyball come to life for many of us who never followed the sport. Thanks to you both for covering this interesting sport that has become a major sports success at Pitt!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. danh72 In the AP football poll released today Pitt is ranked 17. Penn State is not ranked. Other ACC teams were Clemson 4, North Carolina State 14, Miami 16, and Wake Forest 22.


  9. Miami should be up there based on their talent level. But they rarely meet expectations.

    I’ll take 19 for now. Keeps the boys hungry for more.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Not surprisingly, not a single word over the weekend about the Pitt scrimmage. These so called local reporters don’t even try to dig out some information, or try to sneak in to the stadium. Everyone is afraid of Naduzzi..


    1. Not the owner of the POV though. I’m going to the Kickoff Luncheon and right after he calls me a “spy” again I’ll tell him that it is blog ‘reality’ time again (hat tip to Ike for hating that word…)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Reed, I’m going also disguised as Scooter.
        He’s also attending disguised as me.
        In the confusion you can dig up some hot scoops!!
        Glad to help!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. PITTSBURGH—Pitt placed No. 17 in the newly released Associated Press college football poll, the Panthers’ highest preseason AP ranking since 2010.

    This is the second major poll to rank Pitt among the nation’s Top 25 teams. The Panthers are No. 16 in the USA TODAY American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Poll released last week.

    Pitt is one of five ACC teams in the AP Top 25—joining No. 4 Clemson, No. 13 NC State, No. 16 Miami and No. 22 Wake Forest—the second-highest total in the nation. The Southeastern Conference led all leagues with six ranked teams.

    Under the direction of Coach Pat Narduzzi, the Panthers enter the 2022 season as reigning ACC champions. On the strength of an 11-3 record, Pitt ranked No. 13 in the final 2021 coaches and AP polls, its highest finish since 1982.

    The Panthers return 15 starters and 49 lettermen from that squad, including preseason All-Americans in defensive end Habakkuk Baldonado, safety Brandon Hill, defensive tackle Calijah Kancey and offensive tackle Carter Warren.

    Pitt opens the 2022 season on September 1 with the highly anticipated renewal of the Backyard Brawl against West Virginia. Meeting for the first time in 11 years, the historic foes will square off in front of a national ESPN television audience and sold-out Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh at 7 p.m.

    ESPN’s College GameDay Built by The Home Depot—featuring host Rece Davis and analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack—will present an exclusive one-hour live edition from inside Acrisure Stadium beginning at 6 p.m.

    While the West Virginia game is sold out, tickets are still available for the Panthers’ six other home games this fall. Mini packages and single-game tickets, including group experience packages, are available for purchase by calling 800-643-PITT (7488) or online at PittsburghPanthers.com.

    A flexible option is the Panther Mobile Pass, which gives fans the opportunity to reserve games in advance based on availability. There are three Mobile Pass options:
    Panther Mobile Pass Premium allows fans to reserve up to two games at a time. Eligible ticket locations include the Club as well as the Lower and Upper levels.
    Panther Pass gives fans the opportunity to reserve one game. Eligible ticket locations include the Lower and Upper levels.
    Additionally, the Young Alumni Pass is available for those fans who are within three years of their Pitt graduation. All stadium locations are eligible.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The AVCA preseason D1 Women’s Volleyball poll was released this afternoon. Pitt is ranked No. 6, which is a bit of a pleasant surprise to me. As I stated in my article both Louisville at #4 and Georgia Tech at #9 are also ranked in the top ten. No other ACC teams were ranked. Miami, North Carolina, and Florida State all received votes in the order listed.

    Pitt;s first match of the season at Texas A&M tournament will be against #25 San Diego. Ohio State is ranked #7 and BYU is ranked #10. Pitt plays at BYU and Ohio State plays at Pitt. Tennessee which received votes plays at Pitt. Cincinatti did not receive votes so Pitt cannot afford to lose that match if they want to stay in the top ten of the rankings.

    Nebraska, Texas, and Wisconsin were the top three teams. Penn State was ranked #20.

    Here is the link to the poll:


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