How to be a fan of Pitt sports

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How to be a fan of Pitt sports

Women’s volleyball is one of Pitt’s best sports teams.

Women’s volleyball is one of Pitt’s best sports teams.

Thomas Yang | Visual Editor

Women’s volleyball is one of Pitt’s best sports teams.

Thomas Yang | Visual Editor

Thomas Yang | Visual Editor

Women’s volleyball is one of Pitt’s best sports teams.

By Dominic Campbell, Staff Writer

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For the first time, Pitt Athletics is offering students the option to purchase season football and men’s basketball tickets together this year in a $125 package — and you might want to take them up on it. After a lackluster past few years, both teams look like they might be on the upswing.

But how can you attend these games looking like you know what you’re talking about, and what about the rest of Pitt’s varsity sports? There will be 13 Division 1 sports teams at Pitt next season — down from 14 this season, due to the cutting of the women’s tennis program. The number will go back to 14 when women’s lacrosse starts play in the the 2021-22 academic year. Don’t worry, our guide has you covered, from new colors to new coaches.

Retro colors

One of the biggest changes for the upcoming season for all teams is the new uniform colors. At this year’s Bigelow Bash in April, Pitt finally unveiled its return to the retro uniform colors that had been anticipated by Pitt fans, alumni and even college fans across the country. These retro colors are a big contrast to the champagne gold and navy blue of the past few decades, instead calling back to the mustard yellow and royal blue colors worn from the mid-1970s to the end of the ’90s.

Football

The most anticipated Pitt football game of the season is the big rivalry game against Penn State Sept. 14 — which hardcore Pitt fans will have to hitch a ride to State College to see. But the biggest home game against non-conference opponents, UCF, comes on Sept. 21. All football games are played at Heinz Field, where the Pittsburgh Steelers also play. The team is coming off a season that saw them win the ACC Coastal Division and play in the ACC championship and is returning many starters from the year before.

Soccer

The men’s soccer team achieved its highest finish in the ACC this year, reaching the quarterfinals only to lose to Duke on penalties, while the women’s team underwent a year of transition. Both teams are set to keep improving as men’s coach Jay Vidovich and women’s coach Randy Waldrum have won National Championships with Wake Forest and Notre Dame, respectively. The soccer teams play at the Petersen Sports Complex on upper campus behind Trees Hall.

Women’s volleyball

The best team from last year of any Pitt sport was the women’s volleyball team, which made its highest ranking in program history and hosted two games of the NCAA tournament before being knocked out in the second round by Michigan. The team is looking to defend its back-to-back ACC titles and with Dan Fisher as head coach, expect them to play well again this year. The team plays at Fitzgerald Field House, but bigger games are held at the Petersen Events Center.

Basketball

The winter will bring another highly anticipated basketball season at the Petersen Events Center for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The men’s team improved greatly under new head coach Jeff Capel, who was previously assistant at Duke and head coach at Oklahoma. Capel has brought in recruits like guards Trey McGowens, Xavier Johnson and Au’diese Toney, who starred in their first year and will be the main push for the Panthers in the ACC.

The women’s team had its first year with head coach Lance White, who had been an assistant coach at Florida State for the previous 15 years. The team struggled in its first year, but improved down the stretch immensely, especially on the offense. With White’s first recruiting class signed and ready to play next season, along with a new assistant coach, watch out for a much stronger women’s team compared to last year.

Gymnastics, wrestling

The distinguishing feature of the gymnastics team is that unlike other teams at Pitt, it doesn’t compete in the ACC, since the conference doesn’t have a gymnastics league. Instead, Pitt gymnasts compete in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League. The gymnastics team struggled last year, but head coach Samantha Snider’s third year may bring more improvements to the program.

The wrestling team improved vastly over the previous season in Keith Gavin’s second season as head coach. The team went from 4-11 in 2017-18 to 13-3 in 2018-19, including a jump from 6th to 4th at the ACC championships in both seasons. After hosting the NCAA Championships in the City last year and three Panthers, junior Taleb Rahmani, redshirt freshmen Nino Bonaccorsi and Micky Phillipi, finishing in the round of 12 in their respective weight classes, the team will hope to rise up the ranks not only in the ACC, but in the country as a whole. Both teams perform at the Fitzgerald Field House, with the gymnastics team starting in early January and the wrestling team in early November.

Swimming and diving

The swimming and diving season lasts more than six months, from the first meet in early October to the national championships in the spring. Both junior Samy Helmbacher and sophomore Blaise Vera had outstanding seasons this past year, as they were the first men’s swimmers at Pitt to ever finish on the podium as medalists at the ACC championships. They both represented the Panthers at the NCAA Championships, a first for the program since 2002.

The men’s team also broke 14 conference records, including all relay records. The women’s team broke six last year and saw first year diver, Amy Read, qualify for nationals. Expect to see all three back on the national stage again — and you can watch the home meets at the Trees Swimming Pool in Trees Hall on upper campus.

Track and field, cross-country

While Pitt’s track and field team can’t hold official track meets on campus due to a lack of a track and field area, there’s the Blue and Gold meet in early December at the Charles Cost Center on upper campus and also the outdoor CMU Invitational at Carnegie Mellon in late March. Certain athletes to look for next season are high jumper and rising junior Greg Lauray, who’s already set the high jump record at Pitt during his first year, and first-year Sydni Townsend, who competed at Nationals this year. If you’re really into running, also look for the varsity cross-country team and the club cross-country team, which have competitions a couple times a year in Schenley Park, right next to campus. 

Softball and baseball

Vartabedian Field and Charles L. Cost Field in the Petersen Sports Complex on upper campus host the softball and baseball teams, respectively. Both teams had a great 2017-18 season, with the softball team reaching the ACC championship and baseball making the ACC semis, but both regressed last season under new head coaches, Jodi Hermanek for softball and Mike Bell for baseball. Despite disappointing seasons last year, both Hermanek and Bell have been winners elsewhere, Ohio and Florida State respectively, so an improvement for next year is likely.

How to pay for games

Only men’s basketball and football charge students to go see games. Season student tickets for football are $25 this season — about $3.50 for each of the seven home games. As mentioned previously, football and basketball season tickets can be bought together for $125. The price might seem hefty, but it includes more than 20 basketball games, along with access to special events and shirts for the Panther Pitt and the Oakland Zoo — the names of the student sections for football and basketball, respectively. All other sports are almost always free for students to attend, with many raffling off free giveaways to students that attend the games.

If you choose not to buy season tickets for basketball, make sure to buy tickets for specific games soon and show up early — many games were sellouts last year.

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