Thanksgiving sports recap: Volleyball clinches share of ACC title, soccer teams battle in NCAA tourney


Hannah Wilson | Senior Staff Photographer

Graduate student Jackson Walti (24) celebrates with Pitt men’s soccer team after winning a game vs. West Virginia in August.

By Alexander Ganias, Staff Writer

Thanksgiving break arrived just in time for students to take a well-deserved bye week from school. But for the Panthers, there were important games up and down the schedule — including national tournament games and early-season non-conference events. Here’s how the athletic department fared during the week off.

Men’s Soccer:

Pitt men’s soccer advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 20 and exorcised some demons in the process, defeating 16th-seeded Akron 3-0. The Panthers hadn’t defeated Akron since Sept. 16, 2019, and when they faced off earlier this season, the two sides drew 3-3.

Akron hosted the tournament game as the higher seed and registered 19 shots, but it picked up an eye-opening 10 yellow cards and two red cards in the process. Senior midfielder Valentin Noel converted two penalty kicks and sophomore forward Luis Sahmkow added one more goal in the 66th minute, putting the match to bed.

The Panthers then traveled to Lexington to face No. 1 seed Kentucky on Sunday, pulling off a remarkable upset and beating the Wildcats 2-1. Kentucky started the scoring in the 52nd minute when sophomore midfielder Cassper Grenning one-timed a long assist from senior midfielder Nick Gutmann right in front of the goal and past Pitt senior goalkeeper Joe van der Sar.

Pitt responded just two minutes later off a rebounded corner kick. Senior midfielder Valentin Noel stuck his boot out and pushed the ball into the net to tie the game at one. But 20 minutes later, the refs showed Henrique Gallina a questionable red card to send him from the match. Even down to 10 men, Pitt found a way. Junior forward Bertin Jacquesson unleashed a howitzer in the 87th minute, finding the top left corner of the goal and improbably sending Pitt to the Elite Eight.

Pitt will host the regional final match against the Portland Pilots on either Friday or Saturday.

Women’s Soccer:

The Panthers’ record-setting season came to an end on Nov. 20 at the hands of the reigning national champs. Florida State defended its home turf and eliminated Pitt by a score of 3-0 in the sweet 16. The first and eventual game-winning goal came less than 80 seconds into the 90 minute match when junior forward Beata Olsson got one past Pitt first-year backup goalkeeper Ellie Breech.

Breech allowed two more goals and the Panthers barely put up a fight. They only registered seven shots to Florida State’s 18, and two shots on goal to FSU’s 10. Despite the poor showing, the Panthers capped off their best season in program history, and will return to Ambrose Urbanic Field in 2023 looking to build off of it.

Men’s Basketball:

After going winless in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, Pitt returned for a three-game home stand against mid-major schools.

The first game came against Alabama State on Nov. 20, who the Panthers defeated 73-54. It didn’t look good from the outset however, as the Hornets led by as many as 12 in the first half and by three at the end of the half. But the Panthers bounced back in the second half, thanks in part to seven three-pointers. Junior forward Blake Hinson led the team with 21 points, while redshirt senior guard Nike Sibande collected 17 points and four rebounds off the bench.

The Panthers then faced off against Fairleigh Dickinson on Nov. 22 and beat the Knights 83-61. This game was a bit more evenly matched in the first half, with Pitt only leading by seven at the break. But Pitt went on a shooting bonanza in the second half, hitting all of its shots from inside the arc and going 3-9 from outside. Five Panthers reached double figures, with graduate student guard Jamarius Burton scoring 18 on the night.

Pitt capped off the home stand with an 80-64 come-from-behind win against William & Mary. The Tribe led the Panthers at the half 37-33 on 47% shooting, but Pitt went on another second-half tear and outscored the Tribe 47-27. Hinson had 17 points and 11 rebounds, while junior forward John Hugley added 16 points and four assists. Tribe junior forward and former Panther Noah Collier fouled out with four points.

The Panthers will hit the road for their next game against Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. ESPN2 will broadcast the game on Monday starting at 9 p.m.

Women’s Basketball:

The Panthers took a trip to Fort Myers Florida over the weekend and took part in the first-ever Ft. Myers Women’s Tip-Off Event

The first game came on Nov. 25 against Towson, and despite falling behind by as many as eight points, the Panthers defeated the Tigers 72-62. Senior guard Dayshanette Harris scored 15 points and grabbed five rebounds. First-year guard Marley Washenitz also added 11 points and five boards off the bench in the victory.

The next game came the next day against DePaul out of the Big East, Pitt’s first power-6 opponent of the season. The five-game win streak came to an end in humbling fashion, as the Blue Demons won 74-59. Junior forward Gabby Hutcherson had 10 points off the bench, but DePaul had two 20-point scorers in the game — sophomore forward Aneesah Morrow (23) and junior guard Kendall Holmes (21).

The final game of the event came against no. 14 Maryland, and Pitt didn’t stand a chance. They lost to the Terrapins 87-63, which included allowing 36 third-quarter points. Graduate student guard Channise Lewis scored nine points and dished out five assists in her first game against her old team, but Terrapin senior guard Abby Meyers led the game with 23 points, as three other Maryland players scored double figures.

Pitt comes back home on Wednesday to face Illinois in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The ACC Network will broadcast the game starting at 5 p.m.


The Panthers wrapped up their regular season with three games beginning on Nov. 18. They dropped their first conference match of the year and their third loss all season to no. 4 Louisville in straight sets. Pitt couldn’t fight past the Cardinals’ home-court advantage, but they still ranked no. 7 in the nation.

Pitt had a chance to redeem itself, and its first task was no. 13 Georgia Tech at the Petersen Events Center. The match went the full five sets and not a single set was decided by more than four points. The Panthers won sets one and four, while the Yellow Jackets won sets two and three. The fifth and final set went the distance and then some, and Pitt came out on top 19-17. 

Louisville’s win against Notre Dame meant that the Cardinals won a share of the ACC crown, but Pitt still had a chance to snag the other share. They just had to win one more game against Boston College, who the Panthers had already beaten on the road. This match was comparatively easier than the heavyweight bout against GT, and Pitt won in straight sets, clinching their fourth ACC title in six seasons.

The NCAA Tournament Selection Show aired Sunday night. The Panthers clinched the No. 2 seed in the Wisconsin regional and they will host Colgate for the first round of the national tournament. ESPN+ will stream the game on Friday at 7 p.m.


The No. 17 Panthers kicked off their home season over the weekend with duels against Maryland and No. 13 Lehigh.

Despite Pitt and Maryland splitting the individual bouts at five wins apiece, and redshirt senior Nino Bonaccorsi collecting his 100th individual victory, Pitt lost to the Terrapins 18-16 on Nov. 18. Maryland redshirt first-year Braxton Brown pinned Pitt redshirt junior Colton Camacho in the first bout, and graduate student heavyweight Jaron Smith defeated senior heavyweight Jake Slinger to take the lead back from Pitt for good. 

But the Panthers bounced back the next night against Lehigh, a team they lost to last year. They won the last five bouts to come back from a 12-6 deficit and win 22-12, which included a major decision from first-year heavyweight Dayton Pitzer.

Pitt will travel to Urbana-Champaign for its next duel against Illinois on Saturday.