POV Bits and Pieces; 4/22/21

Discuss please...

Trib: Pitt holds annual draft for Saturday’s Blue-Gold spring game (Greg Macafee)

“The teams have been chosen for Pitt’s Blue-Gold spring game, which is set to take place at 1 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field.

Defensive coordinator Randy Bates will head the Blue team, which will be captained by quarterback Kenny Pickett and cornerback Damarri Mathis. Tight ends coach Tim Salem will lead the Gold team, with tight end Lucas Krull and linebacker Phil Campbell as captains. Etc

Pitt volleyball players make program history with All-America selections (Macafee)

“Pitt volleyball’s historic season reached another milestone moment Wednesday when two players were named to the All-America second team for the first time in program history.

Senior outside hitter Kayla Lund was named to the All-America second team for the second straight season and became the first player in Pitt history to receive the honor twice in a collegiate career. She was joined on the All-America second team by senior right-side hitter Chinaza Ndee, who earned her first selection after earning an honorable mention nod in 2019. Etc

This is a great piece from The Pitt News and it’s subject matter isn’t all that unique at Pitt but Idoko is a shining example of success:

Ron Idoko: Lifting Up Those Around Him

Pitt football taught Ron Idoko lessons that still impact him long after he’s finished playing.

Idoko played for the Panthers at defensive tackle from 2002-05, walking on in his first semester at Pitt and eventually earning an athletic scholarship.

“I really understood the value of teamwork and dedication … as a walk-on, you really have to scrap,” Idoko said. “You know you’ve gotta grind a lot to get results.”

Idoko obtained both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Pitt, graduating with a degree in communication in 2005, before earning a master’s in public administration, regional and urban affairs two years later.

Idoko emphasized the importance of work ethic frequently, as did Penny Semaia, his former teammate turned professional colleague. Semaia, Pitt’s senior associate athletic director for student life, knows how hard Idoko works firsthand, both in their work with the University and as workout partners. Etc. (Please keep reading this article...)

Staff Q&A: Pitt football prepares for 2021 Spring Game:

“By Dalton CoppolaKyle Saxon, and Eddie Lasker
APRIL 21, 2021

As this semester winds down, the Pitt community looks toward the future.

For Pitt football, that means preparing for the annual Spring Game at Heinz Field this Saturday. In anticipation of the coming exhibition, TPN senior staff writers Dalton Coppola and Kyle Saxon, alongside staff writer Eddie Lasker, give their answers to the most pressing questions facing the Panthers as they conclude spring practices.

What Pitt football storyline most intrigues you entering this year’s Spring Game? (Player, position group, area of interest, etc):

Dalton Coppola: Pitt will have senior Kenny Pickett under center for at least one more season, but the question of who will succeed him lingers. Redshirt sophomore Joey Yellen filled in for an injured Pickett in two games last year and his performance was underwhelming, to say the least — it seems Pickett’s heir apparent was not rostered at the time.

Pitt fans can look to early enrollee Nate Yarnell, a three-star recruit out of Texas, as one potential replacement. The Spring Game will give Panther fans an early glimpse of what life after Pickett may hold.

Kyle Saxon: The loss of multiple starters will put an enhanced amount of pressure on the 2021 Panther offensive line. Redshirt senior Owen Drexel appears to be former star Jimmy Morrissey’s successor at center, and junior Jake Kradel is solidified as a starting guard, but the remaining starters are not finalized. Etc. Etc… Etc…!

More great Pitt News writing:

Column | Final year with Pickett provides chance to return to former glory

By Dalton Coppola , Senior Staff Writer
APRIL 21, 2021

“Spring sports wrapping up, Pitt students moving back home for the summer and the weather warming up all mean one thing — college football is back on the horizon. The Panthers are preparing to conclude their spring practices with a final scrimmage in their annual spring game at Heinz Field on Saturday.

Pitt is coming off of a 6-5 season that was the embodiment of average — there wasn’t much to get excited about. The Panthers rattled off three eye-opening wins to start the season, earning the No. 21 ranking in the country before losing four straight games and falling into a tailspin back toward college football mediocrity — a state Panther fans have become well accustomed to in recent decades, as the program has reached the 10 win threshold just once this century.”

Etc…

Here are some past headlines from The Pitt News that we all probably missed and the full page of their sports pieces:

Pitt’s men’s soccer earns a #2 seed in NCAA Tournament

Panthers fans share drinking traditions before games at Heinz Field

Final NFL Draft prediction of Pitt Stars

Pitt fans must embrace Notre Dame rivalry

…And my favorite from The Pitt News

The love/hate relationship between Pitt fans and Pat Narduzzi

Here is the Pitt News newsletter subscription site – free and fantastic sports coverage (it is at the bottom of this page.)

PITT NEWS NEWSLETTER

HTP!

Reed Says: The Periodic Table Restaurant

Folks – I’ve never done this on The POV before, and you know my attitude towards advertising on here, but a good friend of mine, Lance Cook, has opened up a fantastic restaurant here in Columbia, MD and I’d like to share about it.

It is called The Periodic Table, and Lance opened it pretty boldly right during last summer’s C-19 time, and it is just now really getting it’s feet under itself. You’ll see by the photos that this isn’t a “seen and be seen” type fakery place – but where you will find great food, good service and great conversations.

Some info:

If you live in the eastern part of Maryland, or if you are staying here while doing business in DC or Baltimore I cannot recommend a meal there more highly. Here are some specifics:

The lunch menu (and all meals) are no-frills, no-foufou food well conceived and at a great price, especially here in Columbia, MD which tends to have rather high prices on things overall. I truly love meatloaf and Lance has the best I have had in years…but all the items are worthwhile. Our family will be regulars there.

The dinner menu follows along those lines and both lunch and dinner servings are a good sized meal – my wife and I always carry some home with us.

For drinks they serve thoughtful and varied choices; Here are the Ale list, the Bottled Beer list and Wines…

I just ate dinner at a nice place in Pittsburgh, Pointe Brugge in Highland Park (very good) and while Pointe Brugge is more internationally flavored than The Periodic Table I’d say the two place were equal in quality and atmosphere – both really fine.

The Periodic Table also has good music and other events going on so it’s not just food and drink but a bunch of fun also. Please do try this place – the owner has a huge hit in his first eatery, Tino’s Italian Bistro, also in Columbia and which has been around for a years (and always crowded – if possible try the homemade lemon oil salad dressing!), so I wasn’t surprised one bit at his new venture being the top shelf place it is.

If you all remember when Pitt played Navy in Annapolis in the bowl game a bunch of fans stayed here in Columbia, MD and close by. If we do that again – maybe we win this time – we’ll eat here and drinks on me. Yes, all evening.

Thanks my POV friends, as I said – I haven’t done this before but this is a special place run by a special guy and his staff.

Pitt Sports Bits & Pieces

Pitt picks up glass-cleaning transfer from Oakland University. From the Tribune-Review:

After losing a handful of players to the transfer portal since the end of the season, Pitt basketball showed Monday that the process is, in fact, a two-way street.

The Panthers received a commitment from Oakland University transfer Dan Oladapo, a 6-foot-7 forward best known for his prowess on the glass.

Oladapo, a Maryland native, averaged 12.9 points and 8.8 rebounds for Oakland last season, helping the Golden Grizzlies to the Horizon League championship game. He was first in the conference and ninth in the country with 3.8 offensive rebounds per game.

Oladapo had 25 points and 20 rebounds in a Feb. 12 game against Robert Morris, becoming the first Oakland player in 11 years to go 20-20. It was one of nine double-doubles he had during the season.

Oladapo will have two years of eligibility remaining. According to the Detroit News, he had also received interest from South Carolina, St. Bonaventure, Tulsa, George Mason and Florida Gulf Coast.

More from the Trib:

“Pitt came within a set — and, for brief moments, a point — of the athletic department’s first Final Four in 70 years.

Playing in its first NCAA regional final in program history, the Panthers women’s volleyball team lost an excruciating fashion to Washington in a five-set thriller Monday afternoon in Omaha, Neb.

Chinaza Ndee had 16 kills and Kayla Lund 13 for the Panthers, who took the first two sets with relative ease and were twice awarded points late in the fourth set that gave them match points that ended up being overturned by Huskies’ video-review challenges.

Washington won the deciding fifth set 15-9 to send them to Thursday’s national semifinal.”

Pitt men’s soccer falls to Clemson in ACC automatic qualifier match

Well, we ain’t dead yet…

“The No. 1-ranked Pitt men’s soccer team didn’t get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night, but the Panthers can expect to have their name called during Monday’s tournament selection show.

Pitt dropped a 2-0 decision to No. 4-ranked Clemson in the ACC automatic qualifier match Saturday night at Historic Riggs Field in South Carolina.

Clemson (13-3-2) earned the conference’s automatic NCAA bid, while Pitt (13-3) will learn where it is seeded at noon Monday during the NCAA Men’s Soccer Selection Show. As the nation’s top-ranked team, Pitt is expected to be awarded an at-large bid.

Quinn McNeill (17th minute) and Isiah Reid (83rd minute) scored for Clemson.

Pitt, which also lost to Clemson, 2-1, in the ACC championship game Nov. 22, finished the game with 11 shots and eight corner kicks”

Keep your fingers crossed…

The Post-Gazette’s take on Pitt losing BB Players:

“Two weeks after the men’s college basketball season ended, Pitt’s roster is still mired in a state of uncertainty.

The Panthers have just six scholarship players definitively returning for the 2021-22 season and could have as many as seven scholarships to fill.

They’re not the only ones in a precarious spot. The transfer portal to which they lost five players is packed, with about 1,400 Division I players in it. With 357 Division I programs and 13 scholarship players per team, that represents roughly 30% of the sport. Pitt has lost players, sure, but it’s hardly alone.

P-G’s latest Pitt football chat:

John Walker: Which Avengers character would be the best college football recruiter? Multiple answers are acceptable.
John McGonigal: Oh jeez, that’s a good question. I would compare Nick Fury to Nick Saban in a way.”

OK, ’nuff said about that! Why you ask? Because that is what closed practices give the fans…year after year at Pitt.

From the Pitt News:

Wolter wins decathlon, baseball and softball pick up series wins

By Jason Glancy, Staff Writer
APRIL 19, 2021

“Pitt softball also came up with a series win over UNC this weekend. In game one, the Panthers won 6-5, thanks to a rally in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sophomore outfielder EC Taylor started it off with a single past the shortstop. Then sophomore infielder Kayla Lane hit a home run to score both her and Taylor. With two outs and the game tied up, senior outfielder Hunter Levesque ended it with a walk-off home run.”

Folks, these student writers some of the better Pitt sports reporters of all. I don’t read the Pitt News as much as I should but they cover these smaller sports in a lot more depth than any other media outlet, including the POV. So put them on your lists of sites to read.

Here is a longer Pitt News article on the baseball team.

No. 19 Pitt baseball (20-11, 14-10 ACC) took two of three games over the weekend against the North Carolina Tar Heels (19-15, 13-12) in a series that saw a little bit of everything. From a rain-induced postponement, to a pitchers duel on Saturday and a slugfest on Sunday, there was no shortage of action in the pivotal ACC matchup.

The series got off to a turbulent start, when game one was moved from its original Friday night timeslot to a Saturday afternoon first pitch. It would also be the first game of a double-header in which game two would begin 45 minutes after the final out of game one.”

2021 Panthers’ Choice Awards

Here is a quick piece about our Pitt Student/Athletes achievements over the past year. As we have been talking a lot about the minor or smaller sports programs at Pitt and the pleasure they have given us – let’s not forget all the other players, scholars, coaches and others at Pitt who work so very hard to give us, their teammates and fellow students an enjoyable time to be a Pitt fan…

Link: Panthers’ Choice Awards

Pitt Athletics Announces Winners from 2021 Panthers’ Choice Awards

Varsity Walk Additions Highlight Annual Ceremony

PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh Department of Athletics hosted the fourth annual Panthers’ Choice Awards Sunday evening with a virtual celebration of student-athlete achievements in academics, athletics and citizenship made during the 2019-20 academic year.

The Panthers’ Choice Awards honor Pitt’s top athletic performances, community service participation as well as the top teams in terms of both athletic and academic accomplishment.

Presenters were highlighted by 1948 Olympic medalist and American living legend Herb Douglas, who announced the Heart of a Panther Award to gymnastics’ Olivia Miller.
 
Additionally, the prestigious Panther Awards and Blue-Gold Awards were presented during the program. The names of the recipients are forever recognized on Pitt’s Varsity Walk between the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Memorial Chapel, in a tradition that dates back to 1950.

Football’s Jimmy MorrisseyPatrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver, volleyball’s Kayla Lund and Chinaza Ndee and wrestling’s Jake Wentzel will each have their names engraved on the prestigious Varsity Walk, ensuring their status as legends in Pitt Athletics history.
 
Below is a full list of awards presented Sunday.
 
Top Overall Academic Teams of the Year

  • Reserved for the male and female team with the highest cumulative GPA for the spring and fall semesters of 2020.
  • Winners: Men’s Cross Country and Volleyball

 Bridge Builder Award

  • Presented to the team whose student-athletes demonstrate the strongest commitment to making an impact in the community.
  • Winners: Gymnastics and Women’s Lacrosse

 Heart of a Panther Award

  • Presented to the student-athlete who best embodies the spirit of service through the Pitt Promise and is involved in the community above and beyond what is required.
  • Winner: Olivia Miller (Gymnastics)

 Gold Standard Teammates of the Year

  • Presented to the student-athlete who most effectively inspires his or her team through exemplary commitment, composure and integrity.
  • Baseball: Nico Samarkos
  • Men’s Basketball: Nike Sibande
  • Women’s Basketball: Gabbie Green
  • Men’s Cross Country: Josh Higgins
  • Women’s Cross Country: Ally Brunton
  • Football: David Green
  • Gymnastics: Katrina Coca
  • Women’s Lacrosse: Therese Pittman
  • Men’s Soccer: Valentin Noel
  • Women’s Soccer: Celia Lopez
  • Softball: Morgan Batesole
  • Men’s Swimming & Diving: Judd Fishman
  • Women’s Swimming & Diving: Kathleen Lynch
  • Men’s Track & Field: Ade Jones-Roundtree
  • Women’s Track & Field: Abena Atuobi
  • Volleyball: Kylee Levers
  • Wrestling: Jake Wentzel
  • Cheer: Matthew Nolan
  • Dance: Teegan Zeh

Gold Standard Administrator of the Year

  • Presented to a non-coaching staff member(s) of the athletic department who has gone above and beyond to ensure success and development of the student-athletes.
  • Winner: Pitt’s Sports Medicine Team for all their hard work during COVID-19

James Conner Comeback of the Year

  • Presented to a student-athlete who, having recovered from an injury, illness or hardship, returns to make a noteworthy contribution to their teams’ athletic success.
  • Winner: Rashad Weaver (Football)

 David Sandberg Champion Award

  • In memory of the former Pitt wrestler and assistant coach, this award is presented to the senior who best exemplifies the qualities that Sandberg embraced: dedication to academic and athletic excellence, with an unyielding spirit and passionate commitment to the improvement of the University of Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities.
  • Winner: David Yanni (Baseball)

 Male and Female Performance of the Year

  • Presented to a male and female student-athlete for the most remarkable or significant performance achieved in 2020-21.
  • Winners: Nino Bonaccorsi and Jake Wentzel (Wrestling) and Kayla Lund (Volleyball)

 Newcomer of the Year

  • Presented to the student-athlete who has made an immediate impact at Pitt in their first year of intercollegiate competition. Nominees may include freshmen and redshirts.
  • Winners: Valeria Vazquez Gomez (Volleyball) and Filip Mirkovic (Men’s Soccer)

 Team Moment of the Year

  • Presented in recognition of a striking performance by an individual or group in a specific competition that led to a shift in momentum.
  • Winner: Men’s Soccer first ACC Championship appearance in program history

 Male and Female Athlete of the Year

  • Presented to a male and female standout student-athlete who has demonstrated outstanding athletic performance during competition and has been instrumental to their teams’ success.
  • Winners: Blaise Vera (Men’s Swimming & Diving) and Amanda West (Women’s Soccer)

 Team of the Year

  • Reserved for the team that exemplified outstanding athletic achievement in the 2020-21 season.
  • Winner: Men’s Soccer

 Blue-Gold Award

  • Presented to the male and female senior student-athlete who best represents the student-athlete “ideal” based on academic scholarship, athletic achievement, leadership qualities and citizenship. These recipients will be forever recognized on the Varsity Walk.
  • Winners: Chinaza Ndee (Volleyball) and Jimmy Morrissey (Football), Jake Wentzel (Wrestling)

 Panther Award

  • Presented to the male and female senior student-athlete who has promoted Pittsburgh Athletics through his or her outstanding athletic achievement. These recipients will be forever recognized on the Varsity Walk.
  • Winners: Kayla Lund (Volleyball) and Rashad Weaver (Football), Patrick Jones II (Football)

Carson Graduate Fellowship Full Award

  • Stewarded to the best candidate who is of high moral character and has shown outstanding undergraduate academic achievement at the University of Pittsburgh, who demonstrates the potential for outstanding graduate study in continuing their graduate or professional education at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Winner: Monica McNeil (Women’s Track & Field)

Script Writer Award

  • Recognizes a student-athlete who best embraces Pitt Athletics’ seven bridges achieving comprehensive excellence within the classroom, on the field/court of play, within our University community, and within the city of Pittsburgh.
  • Winner: Monica McNeil (Women’s Track & Field)

Pitt VB into Round Three…!

Here is another well researched and written article on the Women’s Volleyball team’s progress through the tournament sent in by John in SC…

Pitt women’s volleyball’s next test in the NCAA tournament is PAC-12 winner the Washington Huskies.  Washington has a 19-3 record.  Their three losses were to Arizona State, #15 UCLA, and # 16 Oregon.  They also beat all three teams in their two-match series.  The other wins over ranked teams were two wins over #10 Utah by the scores of 3-0 and 3-1.  Washington is ranked #7 and was seeded #6 in the tournament.

As of this writing of the five teams from the PAC-12 in the tournament only Washington remains in the tournament.  Four of the five teams were seeded.  The three teams went down in the second round. Oregon got eliminated in the third round by #7 seed Purdue.

Washington has been pushing their luck in the tournament.  Dayton took them to 5 sets.  Washington won the first 2 sets, lost the next 2 sets, and won the last set 15-11.  Washington just barely beat Louisville.  Washington won the first and fourth sets, with Louisville winning sets two and three.  After beating Louisville 25-14 in the fourth set, Washington got off to a horrible start in the fifth set down 5-0.  They would also be down by 7-1 and 10-4 in the set. 

Louisville unfortunately fell apart and lost the set and therefore the match by a score of 15-13.  Washington and Louisville played their match on the same court after the Pitt victory over Minnesota so they have about 3 hours less rest ahead of the match than Pitt.

Here are the some of the awards the Huskies have received this year.  #7 Ella May Powell, 6’0”, was named PAC-12 Setter of the year.  Head Coach Keegan Cook was named PAC-12 Coach of the year.  In addition to Powell, #9 Samantha Drechsel, 6’4”, and #21 Claire Hoffman, 6’2”, were first team PAC-12.  #1, Lauren Sanders, 6’4”, and #12 Marin Grote, 6’4”, were honorable mention.  #18 Madi Endsley, 6’2”, made the All-Freshman team.

Washington’s hitting percentage is 0.256 while holding their opponents to 0.197.  They average 2.6 blocks per set.  They have 144 service aces to 198 service errors.  Dreshel, Hoffman, and Endsley make their offense go.  Between them they have 72% of the kills.  Not surprisingly the Huskies only use one setter, Powell.  Powell is third in digs on the team.  Drechsel and Grote are their leading blockers with numerous of secondary blockers.

Pitt is again facing a very tall team that is well coached.  They are not as battled tested as Minnesota.  Washington is very resilient and poised in the face of great adversity.  Louisville did us no favors by blowing the big lead in that last set.  Washington now probably feels they are a team of destiny.  With Pitt’s win over Minnesota, Washington will not be overconfident.  Pitt is the talk of the tournament now!

So, what can Pitt due to win this match?  In this match they need to concentrate on Drechsel and Hoffman.  They need to serve at their setter, Powell, and target her with our hits.  She cannot set if she has first contact.  Others have tried this tactic as shown by Powell being third in digs. 

Pitt again needs to communicate with the front line on who is across the net from them.  They need to tool their hits against blocks and look for openings.  They need to play as error free as possible.  Louisville did not and lost.

Pitt just had the biggest win in the history of the program on Sunday with their victory over Minnesota.  Pitt’s players were on an adrenaline high after the victory.  Coach Fisher hopefully calmed them down.  Hopefully they all came down from that natural high, crashed, and slept well.  This is going to be crucial for Pitt to win.  Pitt is no longer the hunter but the hunted.  They cannot feel pressured.  No one expected them to be in this spot.  That is how they need to play, loose, but under control!

What are Pitt’s chances for victory?  In a three set match Pitt wins.  That means Pitt came out fast and Washington never recovered.  I seriously doubt this happens.  Pitt will probably come out flat given the emotional drain of the Minnesota win.  I see this match going to four or five sets.  In four sets Pitt has a 60% chance of victory.  It is a coin toss, if it goes to five sets with only a 50% chance victory.  I am counting on the calmness of Coach Fisher to carry over to his team and bring us to victory! 

Hail to these fighting, scrappy Panthers!

Washington

Next Match: vs. Washington

4/19/2021 | Noon ET

ESPN2

Pitt vs Minnesota; WVB Round II Thread

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Following are some websites that might help Pitt fans cheer the Women’s Volleyball Team to a 2nd round tourney victory tonight. So, if you can stay awake until the start time of 10:30 pm ET and watch it then good for you because I’ll read about it the next day. 

These links can be used for in-game commenting research also.  First off the Minnesota Gopherettes:

Long Island University Athletics - link to home

MINN Volleyball Homepage

MINN Volleyball 2020-21 Schedule

MINN Volleyball 2020-21 Stats

MINN Volleyball 2020-21 Roster

As for our Panthers – here is some info to read before, during and after the game. Let’s hope we can pull this off. Second round is, I believe, the farthest we have gotten in the NCAA Tournament – correct? Let’s go for three rounds at least.

Pittsburgh Panthers Primary Logo | Sports Logo History

Pitt Volleyball Homepage

Pitt Volleyball 2020-21 Schedule

Pitt Volleyball 2020-21 Stats

Pitt Volleyball 2020-21 Roster

Here is an article about the game on the Gopher’s WVB Home Page

BROADCAST INFORMATION

Start Time: 12:01 p.m.
Stream: ESPN3 (Stream, please use cable provider if package includes ESPN Channels; Eric Frede – play-by-play; Katie George – analyst)
Live Stats: https://www.ncaa.com/brackets/volleyball-women/d1/2021

SERIES INFORMATION

Third All-Time Meeting vs. Pittsburgh
Series tied, 1-1
Last Meeting: 1999
First Meeting: 1990
Last Loss: 1990
Streak: Minnesota, W-1

HEADING INTO THE MATCH

The University of Minnesota is the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. With the three-seed, Minnesota has a first-round bye and played its opening match of the NCAA Tournament on April 15, as the Golden Gophers earned a 3-0 win (25-19, 25-21, 25-18) over Georgia Tech.

Minnesota had a well-balanced attack as the Gophers had three individuals in double-digit kills. Stephanie Samedy and Adanna Rollins each had 13 kills and hit over .340, while Taylor Landfair had 11 kills. Melani Shaffmaster added a double double with 32 assists and a team-best 16 kills, while Regan Pittman had six blocks. With the win, it solidified Minnesota’s spot in the Regional Semifinal and faces Pittsburgh on Sunday. 

The 2021 season marks the 25th year the Golden Gophers have advanced to the NCAA tournament. Minnesota has also advanced to the tournament six-straight seasons and eight under ninth-year head coach Hugh McCutcheon. Minnesota has had a top 10 seed the past six seasons. The Gophers were the No. 2 seed in 2015, 2016 and 2018, No. 3 this year, and the No. 7 seed in both 2017 and 2019. In all, Minnesota has been to six Final Fours since 2003.

The Gophers have also made it as far as nine Sweet 16 berths and two Elite 8 appearances. Now in their 25th NCAA appearance,  it marks the 18th Regional Semifinal match in program history and seventh under head coach Hugh McCutcheon. Although the Gophers missed the 2014 championship, Minnesota will now play in their 10th-straight Sweet 16 match when making the tournament. 

Minnesota is 8-9 all-time in the Round of 16, including a 4-3 mark under McCutcheon. The Gophers have advanced to the Regional Final in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2019 under McCutcheon. Minnesota competed in a five-set battle against Florida in 2019 and advanced to the Regional Final. 

 Regan Pittman is closing in on her 500th career block for the Golden Gophers, now sitting at 491. She currently ranks ninth in school history behind former Gopher Paige Tapp, who had 495 in her Gopher career. 

Should the Gophers win over Pittsburgh (Editor’s note: Which they won’t ), they would play the winner of Louisville versus Washington on Monday. Match time is set for 11 a.m., on ESPN2. 

ABOUT PITTSBURGH

Pittsburgh earned an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, its 16th appearance in program history. Sunday’s match marks its first Sweet 16 appearance in school history. The Panthers earned their trip to the Regional Semifinals with wins over LIU (3-0) and upset No. 14 seed Utah (3-0). The Panthers are also riding a 14-match win streak into the Sweet 16. 

Kayla Lund leads the Panthers in kills (299), kills per set (3.83), aces (32), digs (242) and points (352.5). Lexis Akeo and Kylee Levers average 5.95 and 5.55 assists per set, while Sabrina Starks averages 1.31 blocks per set. Lund was named ACC’s Volleyball Player of the Year, her second honor back-to-back years. Lund and Chinaza Ndee were named First Team All-ACC, while Starks was named to the second team.

Folks – I’m testing out my audio for starting up some podcasts and round table type discussions. I have a new audio program so let me know if it works in the comments – thanks.

Well, the above seems to work. Now I have a favor to ask of you all. I’d like to do some podcasting but want to talk about things you all are most interested in. Could you take a moment and email me some suggestions you might have that will start some in-depth discussion after listening to the podcast? Left up to me it would be all football, but I hope your suggestions can be better than just that. My email is: rkohberger@gmail.com.

Thanks

Hail to Pitt!!

Women’s Volleyball; Who’s Up Next?

Another solid piece by John in SC.

Pitt’s women volleyball team next opponent is the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the mighty Big Ten Conference.  The match starts at 1:00 PM on Sunday, April 17th, and will be streamed on ESPN3 just like the first two Pitt matches in the tournament.  Pitt and Minnesota have split the two matches they played each other over the years.  This year Minnesota finished second in their conference.

Hugh McCutcheon is the Gophers’ coach.  Prior to coming to Minnesota, he was the U.S. men’s and women’s national indoor volleyball teams coach at different times.  He led the men’s team to a gold medal in the 2008 and the women’s team to a silver medal in 2012.  His resume is quite extensive.  In short, he is very good at his job!

Minnesota has a record of 16-2.  They are ranked #3 in the nation and were seeded #3 in the tournament.  They have played one match in the tournament, a three-set sweep over #23 Georgia Tech.  Other wins over ranked teams include one win over #4 Nebraska along with two wins over #9 Purdue and #12 Penn State.  Their two losses are to #1 Wisconsin and #4 Nebraska.  Big Ten Women’s Volleyball had all kinds of Covid problems so Minnesota never played #8 Ohio State and only played one match against #1 Wisconsin.  The six Big 10 teams mentioned all made the tournament, were all seeded, and are all still playing.  The Big Ten placed the most teams of any conference in the tournament.

The Gophers hitting percentage is 0.267 and the are holding their opponents to 0.190.  They serve very well with 99 aces versus 79 errors.  They average 2.8 blocks per set versus Pitt’s 2.6.  #10 Stephanie Samedy, 6’2”, is their leader.  She is an All American, the Big Ten player of the year, and has a multitude of additional awards.  #21 Regan Pittman, 6’5” and #12 Taylor Landfair, 6’5”, were also on the First Team All Big Ten team.  #20 Adanna Rollins, 6’0” was on the Second Team. 

Landfair and # 5 Melani Shaffermaster, 6’3”, were on the Big Ten All-Freshman team.  Shaffermaster is their setter.  They only use one setter and she is not a liability on the front row with her extraordinary height for a setter.

There are four main hitters for the Gophers: Samedy, Landfair, Rollins, and Pittman.  All four of them are also among their leading blockers along with Shaffermaster, their setter.  Another blocker of note is #9 Shea Rubright, 6’5”.

This is what Pitt faces on paper.  Minnesota is very well coached.  They have very tall, excellent players.  Their setter is an important part of their front row blocking scheme.  They have faced a very tough regular season schedule and are used to a high level of competition.  On paper things look rather bleak for Pitt.

Not so fast!  While Minnesota swept Georgia Tech in three sets, Georgia Tech did not go down quietly.  The scores of the three sets were 25-19, 25-21, and 25-18.  Pitt in their only meeting with Georgia Tech this year also swept Georgia Tech.  The scores of those three sets were: 25-19, 25-23, and 25-19. 

There is not that much difference between these two victories although Pitt’s victory was in Pittsburgh.  Pitt held Tech to a 0.145 hitting percentage whereas Minnesota held them to a 0.169 hitting percentage.

So, what should Pitt’s strategy be to defeat Minnesota?  First thing is not to be intimidated by Minnesota! 

Pitt’s players need to go into the match with a chip on their shoulder and be ready!  Minnesota’s players will probably be a bit overconfident.  After all they just beat another team from that weak ACC conference.  Pitt sweeping #10 Utah may have turned the overconfidence down a notch but hopefully not much.

Pitt cannot try to hit over Minnesota’s front line.  They need to look for gaps and try to tool the ball off their blocks.  They can do this by hitting the ball with spin at angle into the block.  Pitt’s setters need to move the ball to hitters that are one-on-one with blockers.  Another thing Pitt will be doing on the attack is hitting from the back row.  Pitt’s blockers are going to have to use their legs to even out the height disadvantage.

Pitt needs to try to keep the Golden Gophers out of system.  Against Utah that was done by serving to their libero.  I seriously doubt that would work with a Big Ten libero.  Due to their height Pitt needs keep their serves low to the back row.  Make them go down to receive the serve.

Similar to their strategy with Utah, Pitt needs to not let Samedy, their leader, dominate the game.  She will have good stats at the end of the day but Pitt needs to make her work for every point.  Frustrating Samedy may carry over to the rest of the team.  The secondary player Pitt needs to concentrate on is Landfair.  Unfortunately, even if Pitt can control both of them, Minnesota can win the match with their secondary players.  They are deep enough to do that.

There is no way Pitt is going to win this match in three sets.  They could lose it in three though if they do not start well.  They may win it in four sets though.  Ideally Pitt wins the first set.  This would blow the confidence of Minnesota.  Pitt could then take two of the next three sets.  Pitt may be able to win a five-set match also.  This is especially true if Pit wins the fourth set.  To do this though Pitt needs to come out quickly in the last set and end it at 15.

Here are what I feel the percentages are of Pitt winning the match based on the number of sets.  This presumes Pitt serves as well as they have so far in the tournament.  In a three-set match Pitt has a 0% chance.  This means Pitt got blown out.  In a four-set match, I think Pitt has a 50% chance of winning.  In a five-set match Pitt has a 40% chance of winning.  Pitt’s best chance of winning is winning the first set in a four-set match.  I would give Pitt a 60% chance of winning in that scenario.  Bring on those Gophers!

Hail to Pitt!