The University of Pittsburgh has many sports teams, but none is doing as well as the undefeated volleyball team. The talented group of 17 women has been serving up victory after victory all season long.
At 22-0 (10-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) and ranked No. 5 in the country, it's the best start to a season in school history, and their extraordinary run is bringing out the fans in big numbers for home matches at the Fitzgerald Field House.
At their most recent home court victory, Pitt defeated No. 21 Louisville before a record crowd of 2,152. Among the fans was alumnus Neil Guberman, who had nothing but praise for the team.
“It doesn’t take much to make us happy, and this is way over the top,” Guberman said.
Division 1 vollleyball is tough, but so are these players, according to Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke. She said their achievements so far have been amazing.
“They believe in each other (and) they work hard," Lyke said. "They are the prototypical student athletes in every sense of the word."
Dana Van Buskirk's daughter Layne, a junior, plays middle hitter. She racked up a career-high of 12 blocks in the contest against Louisville.
“They love the pressure," Dana Van Buskirk said. "They have a great coach, too. They go one point at a time and they just want to win. They want this bad. They’re going for it.”
Player Stephanie Williams, a redshirt junior and outside hitter, said the electricity and energy at home games really motivates her.
“It’s surreal looking around and seeing everyone out of their seats," Williams said. "The community support is awesome. We love it and feed off it."
Head coach Dan Fisher said his athletes know each other well -- most have played together for at least two years -- which helps them excel, though a primo rank was never the goal. Now, their eyes are on the upcoming NCAA Tournament. For the past two years, the Panthers lost in the second round. Fisher said the team is training to be sure that doesn’t happen again.
“First, you have to make the tournament. Hopefully, we’re putting ourselves in that position. We hope to host the second round, which we think will give us a better chance at advancing," Fisher said. "We’re just going to keep working individually on getting better."
Tournament selection will follow the close of their regular season Nov. 21. Their next home game is Nov. 11 when they battle the Duke Blue Devils.
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