Students are away, athletes play: Pitt stacks victories over Thanksgiving break


Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

Justin Champagnie (11) attempts a layup. He was the top scorer against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

By Griffin Floyd, Staff Writer

Pitt sports had a busy Thanksgiving break, with many games bridging the week-long gap. Volleyball concluded regular season play in dominating fashion, while both the men’s and women’s basketball teams took part in traditional early-season tournaments.

Men’s Soccer

If this season has been a testament to how far the Panthers have come, this team’s game against No. 2 Georgetown on Nov. 24 showed how far they still have to go. They were blanked 5-0 in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the farthest the program has ever advanced. Pitt was stifled offensively, managing only two shots on goal to the Hoyas’ 12.

Redshirt junior goalkeeper Arie Ammann could only do so much in the face of relentless pressure from the Hoyas’ forwards, recording seven saves on a career-high 20 shots faced in the loss.

The Panthers finished 10-8-2, going 4-3-1 in conference play.

Men’s Basketball

Men’s basketball proved to be the highlight of the week as it won the 2019 Fort Myers Tip Off Tournament. The surprising run began on Nov. 25 against the previously undefeated Kansas State Wildcats in a back-and-forth game that saw sophomore guard Xavier Johnson score the game winning layup with 11 seconds left in a come-from-behind 63-59 victory.

The championship game against the Northwestern Wildcats was an easier affair, with Pitt winning 72-59 to secure the championship. First-year forward Justin Champagnie was named tournament MVP with 21 points in the final game.

The Panthers will play in the ACC/Big Ten tournament against Rutgers on Tuesday at the Petersen Events Center.


Pitt volleyball completed its undefeated run through conference play with wins over the NC State Wolfpack and the Louisville Cardinals. Last Sunday, they swept the Wolfpack 3-0 on the road (25-20, 25-14, 25-22), led once again by junior Kayla Lund with 18 kills.

The Cardinals gave Pitt a tougher fight on Wednesday at the Pete. The Panthers squeaked out a win in the first set, 25-22, before Louisville came roaring back in the second to even it up with a 25-21 showing. After that, the Panthers found their rhythm, taking the last two sets handily, 25-11 and 25-12.

Lund again starred with 15 kills, while first-year Lexis Akeo again thrived in a set up role with 47 assists.

As ACC champions, the Panthers will host their first-round matchup against Howard at the Petersen Events Center on Friday, as well as their second-round matchup the next day if they advance.

They finished the regular season 29-1, ranked No. 2 in the AVCA poll.


A week after falling short against No. 3 Ohio State, the No. 12 Panthers earned an upset victory over the No. 7 Lehigh Valley Mountain Hawks. The match saw Pitt come back from a 12-3 deficit, thanks largely in part to a pin from redshirt senior Taleb Rahmani.

Still down 18-15 going into the heavyweight bout, it was again senior transfer Demetrius Thomas who came in clutch with an upset victory. Tied 18-18, the match came down to tiebreakers. The Panthers had scored the most points overall, and so they were awarded the victory.

Pitt is now 2-1 on the season and faces a rendition of the Backyard Brawl in Morgantown on Thursday.

Women’s Basketball

The Panthers took part in the Daytona Beach Tournament over Thanksgiving break. Against the Ohio Bobcats on Friday, they came out of the gates still sluggish from the previous day’s Thanksgiving festivities, struggling to a 42-24 halftime deficit. The Bobcats didn’t look back, cruising to a 72-50 victory. First-year guard Amber Brown was the top performer for Pitt with 14 points over a team-high 35 minutes.

They were able to turn things around the next day against the Ole Miss Rebels, taking a 22-12 first-quarter lead and securing a 58-50 victory. Brown contributed a double-double with 14 points and 10 assists, and fifth year guard Aysia Bugg added 20 points.

Up next is the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, in which the Panthers will face off against the rival Nittany Lions at State College.