Panther Spotlight: Twyman, West, Akeo lead group of autumn overachievers


Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

Jaylen Twyman rushes to tackle. Twyman contributed seven sacks to Pitt’s total of 36, which is the highest in the nation this season.

By Elliott Borawski, Staff Writer

With the fall sports season approaching its final stretch, these three Pitt athletes have been crucial in helping their teams outperform expectations.

Jaylen Twyman, football

Pitt’s football team (5-2, 2-1) faced uncertainty on the defensive line when junior tackles Rashad Weaver and Keyshon Camp were both ruled out for the year due to early-season injuries. But after seven games, the Panthers have completely put those doubts to bed.

Pitt’s defensive line has actually been its best unit, currently leading the nation with 36 sacks that have resulted in 238 opponent yards lost. Sophomore tackle Jalen Twyman has emerged as the unit’s leader, pacing the team with seven sacks. That mark is tied for first in the ACC and is a massive improvement from last season, when he recorded half a sack in a lesser role.

Twyman has 23 total tackles on the season, which means almost a third of his tackles have been on the opposing quarterback. In Pitt’s game against Ohio, he finished the contest with three sacks and four tackles. The following week against Penn State, Twyman had six tackles and 1.5 sacks. While he recorded his first solo sack in three weeks against Syracuse, he has still been Pitt’s most effective pass rusher.

Twyman will look to add to his already impressive resumé and help the Panthers pick up their fifth-straight win when they host Miami on Saturday afternoon.

Amanda West, women’s soccer

Pitt women’s soccer (5-7-3 overall, 2-3-2 ACC) struggled early on but still has much to look forward to this season and onward, largely because of first-year forward Amanda West.

West got off to a hot start, scoring seven goals in her first six starts. While she has dropped off from that mark, she has still started all 15 games and leads the Panthers in almost every statistical category, including 48 shots, 30 shots on goal, eight goals and eight assists. West has 24 total points — the next highest on Pitt is redshirt senior Juliana Vazquez with eight.

West has also shown a knack for clutch moments, scoring four game-winning goals this season. In back-to-back games in August, she scored an 84th-minute winner to beat Loyola Marymount 5-4 and another in the 101st minute to beat Bucknell 1-0.

Recently, West had three assists in a 3-3 tie against Miami, a goal in the 2-1 victory over Boston College and an assist on the lone goal against No. 3 North Carolina in a 3-1 loss.

West has emerged as the undisputed go-to player for the Panthers and will look to continue her successful season when Pitt travels to take on Wake Forest Thursday night.

Lexis Akeo, volleyball

The No. 3 Pitt volleyball team (19-1 overall, 8-0 ACC) has been dominant this season, with its only loss coming in a series split with No. 8 Penn State. The Panthers are firmly on pace to three-peat as ACC regular season champions.

Much of the credit should be given to first-year setter Lexis Akeo, who has taken over as the team’s starting setter. She came in place of her older sister Kamalani, who graduated last spring, as well as redshirt junior Kylee Levers, who tore her ACL in practice at the start of the year.

Akeo has more than risen to the challenge of being a starter. Pitt has recorded 926 assists on the year and Akeo remarkably has 722 of them. With last year’s team having two setters, as Levers added 596 to the mix, it’s still impressive that Akeo is on pace to pass her sister’s 2018 assist total of 760 by a comfortable margin.

But Akeo has done more than just set up her teammates for kills. Like her sister last season, she also ranks in the top five on her team in digs and service aces.

On the national level, Akeo ranks 36th overall in assists per set with 10.62. Pitt as a team is 6th overall in assists per set with 13.59. Akeo has made the biggest impact for her team in a category that places Pitt among the nation’s best.

Akeo has averaged well over 30 assists per match and has even recorded more than 50 assists twice — 58 against Cal Poly and 51 against Utah. In Akeo’s past three games, she had 44 assists against Boston College, 34 against North Carolina and 29 against NC State.

Akeo’s efforts have fueled Pitt’s current eight-game win streak, and the Panthers will look to preserve that streak when they travel to take on Notre Dame Friday at 7 p.m.