Here is another very in-depth article by John Demko (John in South Carolina) about our Women’s Volleyball Team who are heading into the post-season NCAA tournament as the 6th seed!!
Pitt’s ACC co-champion women’s volleyball team continue their season this weekend as they play in their seventh consecutive NCAA women’s volleyball tournament. They were named the 2nd seed in the Wisconsin led bracket. Overall, they were the 6th highest seeded team in the tournament.
This is Pitt’s highest seeding in the NCAA tournament. It is their 18th overall trip to the tournament. Under Coach Fisher Pitt has won eleven NCAA tournament matches. Prior to “Fish” Pitt had a total of two wins. Last year Pitt made it to the Final Four for the first time. In 2020 Pitt made it to their first Elite Eight.
Pitt will host the first and second rounds of the tournament. Pitt’s first match will be against the Colgate Raiders on Friday, December 2nd, at 7 PM in the Petersen Events Center. The winner of this match will face the winner of the preceding match between #7 seed BYU and James Madison. The second-round match will start at 7 PM on Saturday, December 3rd, in the Petersen Events Center.
The ACC placed five teams in the tournament. Louisville, Pitt’s ACC co-champion, is one of the #1 seeds. Georgia Tech is a #5 seed. Florida State and Miami are #7 seeds.
Pitt’s first opponent in the tournament, Colgate, is the champion of the Patriot League which includes Army and Navy. Pitt and Coach Fisher are 1-0 versus the Raiders with a sweep on 9/5/2015. Colgate and Pitt have played one common opponent, NC State. Colgate got swept by NC State at NC State. Pitt defeated NC State at the Fitz in four sets. Colgate other losses were to Villanova, Southern Cal, Navy, and Army.
Colgate is surprisingly tall for a lower conference champion. They play a 6-2 offense like Pitt’s offensive scheme. Another similarity is that one of their setters is a six-rotation player and is an important part of Colgate’s front-line offense.
In a comparison of team offensive statistics Colgate hits at 0.260 versus their opponents 0.188. Pitt’s numbers are 0.268 versus 0.151. Colgate does not have a good service ace to error ratio with 153 aces versus 242 errors. Pitt’s numbers are 152 aces versus 158 errors. Pitt has an advantage in all offensive categories.
In team defense Colgate has 14.28 digs/set along with 1.98 blocks/set. Pitt has 13.1 digs/set to go with 2.6 blocks/set. Colgate has more digs per set than Pitt, but Pitt is the better blocking team. Pitt had more sweeps than Colgate with more lopsided scores. This could easily account for the difference in digs per set.
Colgate’s main offensive player is outside hitter #8 OH hitter Abby Shadwick. She is a 6’2” sophomore that leads the team with 302 kills, hitting at 0.293, along with 33 blocks. The next highest kill total with 196 belongs to setter #17 Julia Kurowski. She is a 6’1” graduate student who is hitting at 0.293. She is also a very good blocker with a total of 71.
The third outside hitter in terms of kills is 6’1” freshman Carlie Rzeszotraski. She has 192 kills hitting 0.230 along with 22 blocks. Colgate’s two middle blockers are tall. The leading middle blocker is #11 6’3” junior Harper Snyder. She is hitting 0.382 with 180 kills and 91 blocks.
The second middle is #19 6’2” senior Sophie Thomson. She has 84 blocks and is hitting 0.284 with 139 kills.
Pitt’s lineup is led by right side hitter #8 6’5” graduate student Courtney Buzzerio. She leads the Panthers with 379 kills hitting at 0.329. She also has 75 blocks and 30 serve aces versus 21 serve errors. After playing for years at Big Ten doormat Iowa, this is Courtney’s first NCAA tournament!
# 2 Valeria Vazquez Gomez, who is a 6’1” redshirt junior outside hitter, is our second highest kill leader with 309 hitting at 0.251. She has 36 blocks and 21 aces versus 18 errors.
#7 6’5” sophomore Julianna Dalton is our third outside hitter in terms of kills with 254 kills hitting at 0.166. She has 57 blocks. Julianna had a heavily wrapped thigh during the last match of the season against Boston College. Hopefully she has had some time to get healthier this week.
Pitt’s two middle blockers are #21 6’2” graduate student Serena Gray and #20 6’1” senior Chiamaka Nwokolo. Serena leads the team in blocks with 113 followed closely by Chiamaka at 106. Chiamaka leads in blocks per set 1.13 to 1.10. Gray has 208 kills hitting at 0.387 along with 19 serve aces versus 35 errors.
Pitt’s main setter is #10 6’1” sophomore Rachel Fairbanks who also plays the front line. She had a triple double (kills, digs, and assists) earlier this year, Pitt’s first in the modern scoring era. She had multiple double doubles during the year (digs and assists).
Our second setter is #1 5’8” Senior Lexis Akeo when she is healthy. Our libero for the playoffs now appears to be #12 5’7” Emmy Klika who replaced #4 5’10” senior Ashley Browske in the last sets of the Georgia Tech match and played the entire Boston College match.
So how does Pitt stack up against Colgate and what do they need to do to win the match? Even though Colgate is tall for a lower conference champion, Pitt is taller at the corners. In the middle Pitt’s athletes are better than Colgate’s and can easily make up the 1” differential.
To win the match Pitt can simply play their normal game. Colgate will run a 6-2 which Pitt sees in practice every day. Pitt needs to concentrate on two Colgate players, #8 and #17. Colgate’s setter, #17, is more valuable to Colgate than Fairbanks is to Pitt. Pitt needs to treat her as an outside hitter when she is on the front line.
Pitt’s outsides should be able to handle Colgate’s outsides one-on-one whereas the opposite will not be the case. This allows Pitt’s middles to help double team the two key front line outside hitters.
Pitt should win the match in three sets if Akeo is healthy enough to play the entire three sets. If #5 6’0” graduate student Cam Ennis must play as our second setter, we will still probably win in three sets. I would prefer a healthy Ennis play in place of a less than 100% Akeo. This would allow Akeo to be in better shape for the Saturday match.
If you are in the area head down to the Pete this Friday and Saturday to cheer on our Panthers!
Hail to Pitt!