Panthers fall 2020 season preview

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Kaycee Orwig | Visual Editor

The Pitt women’s volleyball team is one of Pitt’s best sports teams.

By Alex Lehmbeck, Senior Staff Writer

With six sports teams back in Oakland for voluntary offseason workouts, Pitt Athletics has begun to prepare for upcoming sports seasons with the hope that they will be played in full. With fall sports right around the corner, here’s a quick guide to each squad set to compete in the near future.

Football

2019 Record: 8-5 (4-4 ACC)

Key players lost: DB Dane Jackson (second-team All-ACC), WR Maurice Ffrench (third-team All-ACC)

Outlook: Pitt had a 2019 season with disappointing losses sprinkled into a solid year that capped off by a surprisingly thrilling Quick Lane Bowl victory. The Panthers should be aiming for better in 2020, though. The roster, filled with returning starters and some impressive offseason signees, should boast one of the best defenses in the country, and at least a capable offense.

Center Jimmy Morrissey, defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman and safety Paris Ford, Pitt’s three first-team All-ACC selections in 2019, will lead the team through what appears to be a very manageable 2020 schedule ahead.

Men’s Soccer

2019 Record: 10-8-2 (4-3-1 ACC)

Key losses: M Braden Kline, D Nyk Sessock (transferred)

Outlook: After taking over a Pitt soccer team that hadn’t won a conference game in its last three seasons, prestigious head coach Jay Vidovich has lived up to his reputation as one of the top coaches in collegiate soccer. In his fourth season at the helm, Vidovich officially moved past the rebuilding stage of the program, earning Pitt soccer its first NCAA tournament appearance in 54 years and first NCAA tournament victory in school history.

With nine of its 11 starters returning, including All-ACC first-teamer Edward Kizza, Pitt should aim for another chance at a postseason run.

Women’s Soccer

2019 Record: 5-10-3 (2-6-2 ACC)

Key losses: D Cheyenne Hudson

Outlook: Like the men’s program, Pitt landed a huge head coach signing a few years ago in two-time national coach of the year Randy Waldrum from Notre Dame. Two years into his tenure, Waldrum has yet to break through the rebuilding phase like Vidovich, but his young team has made immediate improvements.

Pitt’s breakout star Amanda West, who led the Panthers last season in both goals and assists in just her first year, has proven to be Waldrum’s most impressive get so far. The question remains — can her surrounding cast provide her with enough help to take the program to the next level in 2020?

Volleyball

2019 Record: 30-2 (18-0 ACC)

Key losses: MB Layne Van Buskirk (first-team All-ACC), OH Stephanie Williams (second-team All-ACC), RS Nika Markovic

Outlook: As the Panthers cruised their way to a third consecutive ACC championship in 2019, head coach Dan Fisher has turned the volleyball team into undeniably Pitt’s strongest athletics program. A season that saw the Panthers destroy previous school records en route to the team’s highest ranking in school history ended with a heartbreaking defeat in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Cincinnati.

Although the team said goodbye to a senior class pivotal to the program’s transformation, the team will have higher hopes than ever for 2020. The Panthers return several players with All-ACC honors and bring in a stacked recruiting class looking for an immediate impact. Can reigning ACC Player of the Year Kayla Lund and her squad build off of last season’s momentum to finally get over the team’s postseason hump?

Cross Country

Key losses: Nick Wolk (15th at NCAA Men’s Regionals), Sam Shields (55th at NCAA Women’s Regionals)

Outlook: Pitt men’s and women’s cross country programs ushered in a new era of the program last year when they hosted their first home meet in over two decades, with both squads winning the Panthers’ opening meet. The men’s team’s seventh-place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals to end the season was its highest result since 2006.

All-region honoree Zach Lefever will look to fill the shoes of former senior captain Wolk, who emerged as the team’s consistent star last year. Junior Devon Hoernlein, who finished second on the women’s team at regionals, is poised to lead the women’s team in 2020.

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