Weekend sports: swimmers compete at nationals, volleyball goes dancing


Jeffrey Gamza

Sophomore Luke Smutny finished 20th in the 500-yard freestyle and 11th in the 200-yard butterfly during the USA Swimming Winter National Championships at Ohio State University this past weekend. (Photo courtesy of Pitt Athletics)

By TPN Staff

It was a high-stakes weekend for Pitt sports, with celebrated wins and heartbreaking losses.

As the volleyball team went dancing at the NCAA tournament, the swim team competed against former Olympians and men’s basketball reclaimed the City Game title.


Despite winning the ACC championship for the first time in program history, Pitt volleyball’s year ended the same way as last year — in a loss to No. 1 Penn State.

The Panthers (26-7 overall, 18-2 ACC) breezed by Virginia Commonwealth University (30-3 overall, 14-0 A-10) Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at State College. But the Nittany Lions (31-1 overall, 19-1 Big Ten) eliminated the Panthers from the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row with a 3-1 second-round victory Saturday.

Four Panthers hit for double-digit kills in a strong offensive performance against VCU Friday, leading to an 3-1 victory for Pitt in the first round.

Similar to last season, the Panthers defeated the A-10 conference champion in the beginning round of the tournament, but couldn’t manage to get by a perennial title contender in Penn State.

Playing in front of a raucous crowd and a homecourt advantage for the Nittany Lions, the Panthers kept pace throughout Saturday’s match. Four Panther players — sophomore Nika Markovic, freshman Kayla Lund, redshirt sophomore Stephanie Williams and sophomore Layne Van Buskirk — hit double-digit kills, but electric offense and strong blocking from the Nittany Lions gave them the edge in the match.

“I’m really pleased with the fight we had tonight and I think we represented ourselves well,” head coach Dan Fisher said. “It was a great year, I love coaching this group.”

Returning their entire starting lineup next season, the Panthers have experience as they hope to make another NCAA Tournament run next year.

Read the full recap here.

Pitt women’s volleyball lost their match to No. 1 Penn State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Pitt Athletics)

Men’s Basketball

In an encouraging sign for the young Pitt men’s basketball team, the Panthers accomplished something that last year’s team was unable to do — manage a victory over Duquesne in Friday night’s annual City Game at PPG Paints Arena.

The Panthers led the Dukes throughout the contest — the highest deficit sitting at 16 points. After turning the ball over a season-high 22 times in their previous game, the Panthers (4-4) buckled down and narrowed that number to just eight. Led by senior forward Ryan Luther’s opening dominance and first-year guard Parker Stewart’s second-half 3-point shooting clinic, Pitt avenged last season’s City Game loss with a 76-64 win over the Dukes (2-3).

“I’m proud of them,” head coach Kevin Stallings said. “I thought that was a gutty effort, and we were very happy to get the win.”

The Panthers return to the Petersen Events Center Tuesday, Dec. 5, for a 7 p.m. game against Mount St. Mary’s.

Read the full recap here.

Senior forward Ryan Luther scored 12 points and had three rebounds in the Panthers’ 76-64 victory over the Duquesne Dukes Friday night. (Photo by Thomas Yang | Senior Staff Photographer)

Women’s Basketball

In another close game for the Pitt women’s basketball team Sunday afternoon, a game-deciding 3-pointer bounced off the rim and resulted in a Fordham win.

The Panthers (5-3) fell to the Fordham Rams (4-2) 58-55 in Bronx, New York, which was the second close loss in a row after a 58-57 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers Wednesday night at home.

Junior center Kalista Walters got two easy buckets down low to start the quarter off, and a three from redshirt junior forward Yacine Diop helped the Panthers jump out to a 7-3 lead.

Fordham quickly came back, though, leading 11-7 at the media timeout with help from two 3-pointers from redshirt first-year guard Bre Cavanaugh and junior guard Lauren Holden. Pitt fouled out early with three of the first five being offensive — two of them Diop.

The Rams shot the ball well from outside in the first quarter, going 4-6. A 3-pointer by first-year guard Kendell Heremaia with six second left ended the first quarter for the Rams who led 21-13.

Pitt will seek to return to a winning record Thursday night as they travel to Morgantown, West Virginia, to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers at 7 p.m.

Read the full recap here.


Six members of the Pitt swim team — who qualified by meeting national time standards — traveled to Ohio State University over the weekend to compete in the USA Swimming Winter National Championships. Competing in a highly contested field — which included several 2016 Olympians — the team secured top spots.

Three Panthers swam well enough in preliminaries to qualify for finals on Thursday, with Valerie Daigneault, Lina Rathsack and Luke Smutny all earning second swims. Daigneault finished 14th in the 200-yard IM and Smutny finished 20th in the 500-yard freestyle, but it was Rathsack who paced the team on its first day, placing seventh in the 200-yard IM with a time of 1:58.39.

After two straight days of top placements, Rathsack wrapped things up Saturday with her best performance of the meet — a fourth-place finish in the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2.09.11, just .05 seconds shy of the Pitt record she set earlier this season at the Ohio State Invite.

Smutny, Menaham and Daigneault chipped in quality finals performances as well. Smutny finished 11th in the 200-yard butterfly, while Menahem finished 18th and Daigneault 24th in the 200-yard backstroke.

The team’s next test will come when the Panthers host their last meet of 2017 with the Pitt Christmas Meet, beginning Dec. 14, and running through Dec. 17.

Read the full recap here.


The No. 24 Pitt wrestling team traveled out west over the weekend to participate in the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Five Panthers advanced to the second round of matches on Saturday, while four made it all the way to the podium with top-10 finishes.

“We came here to test ourselves against some high-level competition and the trip definitely served its purpose,” head coach Keith Gavin said in a press release. “This is a very tough tournament and I’m glad we decided to attend.”

In the first round of the invitational, five wrestlers qualified for spots in the consolation bracket. Senior Dom Forys (133), redshirt senior Nick Zanetta (141), redshirt sophomore Taleb Rahmani (157) and redshirt senior Ryan Solomon (285) all cruised through their opening rounds.

Forys and Zanetta continued their winning streaks, collecting two wins apiece and moving to quarterfinals. Both lost their last matches but secured spots in Saturday’s consolation rounds.

Rahmani won all three of his matches to progress to the quarterfinals, but was taken down in the round and knocked out of the championship bracket. He also secured a spot in the consolation rounds.

Redshirt freshman Gregg Harvey (184) suffered a first-round loss, but made up for it after winning three consolation matches, securing a fifth Panthers spot in Saturday’s bracket.

Four Panthers pinned down consolation wins the following day. Zanetta and Solomon both snagged sixth-place wins in their respective weight classes. Forys and Rahmani also placed, taking seventh in their classes.

The team will hit the mat again this Saturday in a backyard brawl in Morgantown, West Virginia, against WVU at 2 p.m.