Pitt WVB to Final Four by Beating Wisconsin

Pitt vs. Wisconsin: 2022 NCAA volleyball regional finals highlights |  NCAA.comFor the second year in a row Coach Dan Fisher has guided our Pitt Panthers women’s volleyball team to the Final Four.  We will play our ACC rival and co-champion Louisville on Thursday, December 15th, at around 9:30 PM or approximately 30 minutes after the first semifinal match between Texas and San Diego ends.  Before discussing the semifinal match a recap of Pitt’s last match is warranted.

If you watched the Pitt versus Wisconsin match on Saturday and did not become a volleyball fan, there is no hope for you.  You should just skip the rest of this article!  Even if I had been a neutral observer of the match, it would have been a great exhibition of volleyball. 

(Editor’s Note: Here is the full five set match against Wisconsin in case you didn’t watch it live.  For shorter time’s sake here is the all-important Fifth Set to determine the winner of the match.)

Unfortunately, I was not neutral and it was just a tad stressful.  I knew we would win the match when the ball on match point passed mid court out of bounds and not until then.  That was when Pitt won, not when the ball hit the floor off Anna Smrek’s desperation attempt to save the ball.

You can see the University of Pittsburgh writeup of the match here.
Pitt Volleyball is Final Four Bound!! – Pitt Panthers #H2P (pittsburghpanthers.com)

 There are so many things to say about the match I could bore you all to tears.  I will opt instead to be just cover the highlights.

In the match Pitt came out fast in the first set.  Pitt was ahead in the first set 8-3, 15-9, 17-10, 18-11, and even 19-13 before losing the set 23-25.  They were playing in front of 7,200 people with many of them rabid Wisconsin Badger fans yelling at the top of their lungs.  Our Panthers could have folded at that point and got swept.  They did not.  At the end of that first set Coach Fisher put in Julianna Dalton to see if she could be effective.  She was not.

Pitt started the second set slow, with Wisconsin taking a 0-3 lead.  Pitt scored the next point on a Courtney Buzzerio kill and started their comeback.  Pitt took the lead at 4-3 and never relinquished it.  They won the 2nd set 25-21.  Wisconsin fans thought “that was a fluke.  No need to worry yet.”

In set three the lead went back and forth between the teams.  Pitt took the lead at 18-17 and never allowed Wisconsin to tie the score for the rest of the set.  Pitt won the set 25-21.  Wisconsin fans were stunned.  This was not the way this match was supposed to play out.

In the fourth set Wisconsin responded to this nonsense.  They started hot right out of the gate with a 1-5 lead.  Pitt manages to close it to 8-9.  That would be the closest they got in the set, losing 19-25.  So on to the fifth set the match went with momentum on the side of the Badgers.

In the fifth set Wisconsin took the first point and then Pitt went on a 5-point run behind Cat Flood’s serve.  Pitt then opened the lead up to five at 7-2.  Wisconsin came back a bit but Pitt went up by five again at 11-6.  At this point Wisconsin went on a 6-point run to take the lead at 11-12. 

It appeared our Panthers were collapsing right according the script everyone in the nation expected.  Pitt tied the score at 12.  Wisconsin took the next point for a 12-13 lead with the serve two points from victory.  The arena is rocking.  Pitt is out of timeouts and challenges.  Pitt won the next point on a Buzzerio kill. 

Cam Ennis went back to serve.  Vazquez Gomez, who had been stuffed numerous times during the match, went up and creams the ball for a kill.  Ennis served again.  This time Pitt went to Buzzerio again for the kill and the match.  At this point in time on Saturday there was a loud noise heard in western South Carolina.

Pitt won this match on their serve game.  That and their pure will to keep the ball from hitting the floor.  They had a Pitt tournament record of 88 digs.  They managed to put three good sets together which all you need to do in a volleyball match.  As I mentioned in my last article, what happens in the other two sets does not matter at the end of the match. 

For the match Wisconsin won in every major category:

Hitting percentage: 0.217 to 0.266
Points: 82 to 90
Kills: 67 to 74
Blocks: 7 to 12 (It was surprising that Wisconsin was only limited to 12 blocks given the height advantage!)
Assists: 62 to 72
Digs: 88 to 92

The one stat that was in Pitt favor was their serving.  They had 8 serve aces to only 4 serve errors.  Pitt was serving very tough the entire match and only had four errors!  Cat Flood had 3 aces versus no errors.  Wisconsin had four aces versus nine errors.

Pitt’s points leaders for the match were:
Courtney Buzzerio 19.5
Serena Gray 13.5
Chiamaka Nwokolo 13.5
Valeria Vazquez Gomez 11.5
Rachel Fairbanks 10.5
Cam Ennis 9.5

Buzzerio again was our points leader.  She had 18 kills, 1 ace, and a block assist.  Wisconsin was making it a priority to stop her.  Their middles were cheating to her side all night long when she was on the front row.  She attacked from the left side once and their middle followed her to that side.  While Wisconsin was targeting Vazquez Gomez with their serves, she did a good job on the front line against much larger opponents across the net.  The same could be said for Cam Ennis, whose birthday was Saturday. She had her best match as a Panther as a six-rotation player with 9 kills, 6 digs, and 2 assists.  She was thrust into this role just when the tournament started.

Courtney Buzzerio, Rachel Fairbanks, and Chiamaka Nwokolo were named to the All-Regional Team.  For the second year in a row the Regional MVP went to a Pitt Panther.  This year it was Courtney Buzzerio.  Last year it was Leketor Member Meneh.  This was the second year in a row Rachel Fairbanks was named to the All-Regional Team.

(Editor’s Note: Part two of this coverage will discuss our coming opponent Louisville and what needs to be done to get the ladies into into the championship game. That will post tomorrow morning)



34 thoughts on “Pitt WVB to Final Four by Beating Wisconsin

  1. December 13, 2022​

    Pitt’s Calijah Kancey Named First Team Sporting News All-American

    PITTSBURGH—Pitt defensive tackle Calijah Kancey received yet another prestigious postseason accolade today when he was named a first-team selection on the 2022 Sporting News All-America Team, it was revealed by the venerable sports outlet.

    Kancey has garnered four first-team All-America nods by NCAA-recognized selectors, clinching consensus status. He previously was honored by the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and Walter Camp Football Foundation.

    Pitt now has 55 all-time consensus All-Americans to rank eighth among the 131 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools and first in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

    Kancey is the fourth Pitt player to earn consensus All-America status in the past three seasons under Coach Pat Narduzzi. Defensive ends Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver earned consensus honors in 2020, while wide receiver Jordan Addison was a consensus pick in 2021.

    Kancey’s 2022 season is one of the most decorated in recent Pitt history.

    In addition to his All-America citations, he was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the prestigious Outland Trophy (nation’s top interior lineman) and Bronko Nagurski Trophy (national defensive player of the year).

    College Football Network (CFN) named him the National Defensive Tackle of the Year.

    The 6-foot, 280-pound junior was one of college football’s most dominant players this year regardless of position. He compiled 31 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 11 games played.

    Despite facing an array of blocking schemes designed to slow him down, Kancey (Miami, Fla./Miami Northwestern) averaged 1.32 tackles for loss per game to rank 16th nationally and first among the nation’s interior defenders.

    He spearheaded a Pitt defense that leads the country in sacks (3.75 avg.), ranks seventh nationally against the run (95.5 avg.) and ranks 19th in fewest total yards allowed (319.7 avg.).

    The final official All-America squad—selected by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA)—will be released on Wednesday, Dec. 14.


    *Associated Press All-American (first team)

    *Football Writers Association of America All-American (first team)

    *Sporting News All-American (first team)

    *Walter Camp All-American (first team)

    CBS Sports All-American (first team)

    ESPN All-American (first team)

    Pro Football Focus All-American (first team)

    College Football Network National Defensive Tackle of the Year

    ACC Defensive Player of the Year

    First Team All-ACC

    Bronko Nagurski Trophy Finalist (National Defensive Player of the Year)

    Outland Trophy Finalist (Nation’s Best Interior Lineman)

    *denotes NCAA-recognized All-America selector

    Liked by 2 people

  2. RIP Mike Leach. He helped usher in the Air Raid, great offensive mind and college football personality.


  3. I know this is off topic but timely with his passing.

    Mike Leach coaching tree. Quite impressive.

    Sonny Dykes coached wide receivers and was the co-offensive coordinator under Leach from 2000 through 2006. He is now the head coach at TCU.

    Dave Aranda was a graduate assistant coach under Leach from 2000 to 2002 at Texas Tech. Aranda is the current head coach at Baylor.

    Lincoln Riley played under Leach at Texas Tech, then joined the staff and worked his way to becoming a wide receivers coach. Riley is the head coach at Southern Cal.

    Dana Holgorson coached with Leach at Valdosta State and was Leach’s offensive coordinator at Texas Tech from 2000 to 2007. Holgorson now is the head coach at Houston.

    Kliff Kingsbury played quarterback for Leach from 2000 to 2002, throwing for 11,937 yards and 91 touchdowns during those three seasons. Kingsbury is the head coach of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.

    Link to entire article. https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2022/12/13/mike-leach-coaching-career-family-what-to-know/10887044002/


  4. John, I never in a million years would have guessed that I would become a volleyball fan. Thanks for bringing this great game to life for all of us on the POV. I am on pins and a BED of needles waiting for our upcoming matchup.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The pure athletisicm of these young ladies is a thing to behold. their performance under the pressure of the situation and the way they overcame all obstacles to beat the number 1 team on their home court was extraordinary. Performance under pressure when the game is on the line is what it is all about.

    We all have Title IX to thank for this, when my sister played high school basketball the girls were only allowed to dribble three times before they were required to pass or shoot.

    You’ve come a long way baby!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. So Syracuse knocks off Indiana in a high scoring game. Pitt needs more offense for next year, but a final four is nothing to take for granted in any sport..


  7. John, thanks for your written replay of an exciting night. I shared many of the same emotions you described. Although Pitt barely won, I still think they were the dominant team and without the 1st set collapse they might have swept. What would the national media have to say about that? One more detail to add to your excellent recap. I believe it was Emmy Klicka with an excellent bump set to Buzzerio for match point.
    Let’s go Pitt!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The Pitt WVB team has already made all Pitt fans proud, now they have the chance to make us ecstatic!!! H2P!!! Can we rush the court vitually if they are NC?

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Next year Pitt is going to need some outside hitters. Our incoming freshman class has been rated #5 in the nation. In that group we have three outside hitters. The other incoming freshman is a setter, our spare to replace Ennis.

    I was concerned that these freshmen outside hitters would not be ready for starting at the collegian level. My fears have been allayed.

    The player that will probably take Buzzerio’s spot in the lineup is Olivia Babcock. She is 6’4″. She was just one of 20 players named to the AVCA High School All-American First Team.

    The USA volleyball program holds a winter training camp for the elite high school players. There are a total of 73 selected players covering the U18/U19/U20 teams. From this group the national teams for each age bracket will be selected in the future. Of Pitt’s four incoming recruits for next year, three were selected to attend the upcoming camp. They are OH Olivia Babcock, OH 6’2″ Orian Drore, and S 6’0″ Haiti Tautua’a. One player who verbally committed for the incoming 2024 recruiting class was also invited. She is MB 6’4″ Ryla Jones. Jones was only a junior this year.

    During this past year Pitt lost two players to the transfer portal. One was OH Jordan Lockwood who probably would not have played much in her last year of eligibility at Pitt. I believe Cam Ennis and Sabrina Starks would have played in front of her.

    The second player was MB Anastasia Russ from the Pittsburgh area. She could not break into the lineup due to Serena Gray and Chiamaka Nwokolo being ahead of her. She had two years of eligibility when she left for the University of Maryland. She had a great year there this past season and was a AVCA Regional Honorable Mention. Russ would also probably been used very sparingly this season!

    Coach Fisher is recruiting very elite players to Pitt. In football terms, we are getting the 5-star players.

    Liked by 8 people

  10. First off, thank you Pitt Volleyball Women for prompting me to scream ” Let’s Go Pitt” in my den many times during that 5th set. My wife upstairs in bed thought that the Christmas tree was on fire.

    Let me preface this following comment by saying I am not an OC Cignetti fan.

    But and however; if you watch MANY of the football playbacks he did call the right PASSING play but Kedon misread the VERY OPEN second receiver and we have a non completion and it’s on you Cig.

    If you read this blog Kedon: thanks for beating the Mountaineers but get your EYES checked out before your next assignment and quit panicking.

    If you read this blog Cig: hope Phil has better vision and much better timely decision making.

    Hail to Pitt.


    Liked by 3 people

  11. Thank you for the terrific recap of the Pitt-Wisky Regional Final match, John. I am a bit apprehensive to read your preview of the upcoming Pitt-Ville match. I want to think we have a decent chance to beat them. Please don’t ruin that thought for me.

    My Xfinity service said I had maxed my record memory. I deleted all of the Pitt football games from this season and all of the Pitt basketball games to date. I couldn’t bring myself to delete the Pitt-Wisconsin volleyball match. I’ve only viewed it twice.

    For any remaining Neanderthals who look down their noses at women’s sports, and I’m pretty sure we have a few who read and post on here, do yourself a favor and watch that match or any of the matches of the elite D1 volleyball teams. The athleticism on display is truly amazing! Our players make me proud to be a Pitt fan!

    Liked by 9 people

    1. couldn’t you first delete the recorded cooking shows and America’s Got Talent episodes? 😉

      remember, you can always use the YouTube link from the previous thread and reposted in the article above


      the athleticism IS amazing, the mental toughness and focus is too!!!

      surprised the stats were so lopsided but the serving was the difference and more than an equalizer

      Wiscy was great, Pitt greater!

      Liked by 6 people

  12. Wolfe, you can delete those Gilligan’s Island episodes too…I got the box set!
    Come over anytime you have some extra cinnamon buns or nutrolls.

    Liked by 2 people

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