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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

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Pitt baseball players stand in the dugout during a game against Virginia Tech on March 24 at the Petersen Sports Complex.
Pitt baseball shows promise in weekend series in Texas
By Dylan Grace, Staff Writer • 12:32 am

Feature | Pitt volleyball reflects on past, future ahead of matchup against No. 6 Louisville

Pitt+volleyball+players+celebrate+after+their+win+against+Louisville+on+Oct.+22%2C+2022.
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Pitt volleyball players celebrate after their win against Louisville on Oct. 22, 2022.

Coming off another unbeaten weekend against ACC opponents, No. 8 Pitt volleyball (15-2, ACC 6-0) faces their toughest road test of the season this Friday at No. 6 Louisville (14-2, ACC 5-1) on Friday at 7 p.m.

Head coach Dan Fisher knows that this upcoming battle with the Cardinals isn’t an easy one for the Panthers.

“They’re well coached, and they play really hard,” Fisher said. “We are going to have to earn it.”

Pitt and Louisville have met in some big games in recent times. Just last season, the duo met in the NCAA Final Four, where the Cardinals eliminated the Panthers 3-2. 

Some of the Panthers, like junior libero Emmy Klika and setter and junior right-side hitter Rachel Fairbanks, still have a sour taste in their mouth from their last matchup against Louisville in the Final Four.

“I think if we pull out a win in front of their crowd in their big arena, that would feel pretty good,” Klika said, “after the loss from last year.”

Fairbanks agreed with Klika’s sentiment and looked towards the future for what this game means.

“It’s good preparation for a deep run into the tournament,” Fairbanks said.

Fisher doesn’t see this as a revenge game for Pitt, but he still sees it as a huge game for the team. 

“I don’t think of revenge at all,” Fisher said. “That was a different team, a different season. I just think it’s a really good team that we want to beat.” 

Louisville — who won a share of the last three ACC championships — is a perennial conference contender like Pitt. Klika believes that the reason the Cardinals are at the top of the ACC, like the Panthers, is because they have the same drive that her team has.

“Watching them play, you can tell the passion that they have for the game,” Klika said. “It looks like when we play, honestly. We both have that competitiveness that’s just very obvious when we’re playing.” 

Along with their passion, the reason the Cardinals and Panthers stay at the top of the ACC every year is the talent on the teams. 

The Cardinals return tons of talent from last season’s team. They return senior outside hitter Anna DeBeer and junior libero Elena Scott. DeBeer leads the Cardinals in kills with 200, and Scott leads the Cardinals in digs with 259, which has helped them both win two ACC Player of the Week awards for their respective positions.

With these two talented players, the Cardinals also have a new starting setter in redshirt sophomore setter Elle Glock. The sophomore setter leads Louisville in assists with 512, which has helped her win two ACC Setter of the Week awards.

On the flip side, the leaders of the Panthers’ offensive charge are first-years, as the new stars have combined for 366 kills and won five different ACC Freshman of the Week awards.

First-year right-side hitter Olivia Babcock and first-year outside hitter Torrey Stafford are proud to make this much of a difference for the Panthers this quickly.

“Just being able to help a program this good is honestly more than I think we could both hope for,” Babcock said.

The first-years’ impact is something that Fisher said he didn’t expect entering the season. But Klika did see the first-years perform and believed they could make a difference at Pitt quickly.

“They didn’t really come in as your typical freshmen that are learning the ropes,” Klika said. “They came in ready to go.” 

Along with the first-years making key differences offensively for the Panthers, Klika has stepped up defensively for the Panthers, taking the leadership role of the libero, where she leads the Panthers with 195 digs. 

“Taking on a new position of leadership gives me another opportunity to grow,” Klika said, “not only by being on the court but as a vocal leader and as a presence on the court.”

While the team is loaded with new talent, there is one returner making a difference on the court — Fairbanks. The junior leads the Panthers in assists with 371 and won this past week’s ACC Setter of the Week award. She is ready to help the Panthers win any way she can, even if that means the Panthers don’t play the lineup she prefers.

“I like the 6-2 because if I am staying in for the front row, I can get some swings in,” Fairbanks said. “But it really just depends on the flow of the game. Whichever lineup we can win with, I think is the better lineup in the moment.”

The Panthers having these two lineups to work with is really an advantage to Fisher. It gives him the ability to switch things up whenever he needs to.

“I like that we’re deep,” Fisher said. “And I think we can win with a lot of different lineups.”

No matter the lineup the Panthers have, Fairbanks and Klika have stepped up their games for the bigger games this season. Klika had a career-high 24 digs against No. 5 Oregon. Fairbanks, meanwhile, had a season-high 42 assists — one assist shy of her career-high — against No. 11 Georgia Tech. 

With a top 10 battle with Louisville imminent, Klika and Fairbanks expect to play their best and are willing to admit their mentalities may change. 

“We try to prepare for every game the same,” Fairbanks said. “ But when there’s more on the line, there’s an unsaid fire that happens. So I like to believe that Emmy and I love a good challenge and step up when we need it most.”

Playing in a game as highly anticipated as this is a lot for a first-year to handle, but the first-years have prepared for this moment. 

“We talked about not having our first time being our first time,” Stafford said. “We are preparing for something hard on Friday, so we have a really good idea.” 

The first-years expect tough, and the Panthers expect to see over 15,000 Louisville fans in the KFC Yum! Center — something the first-years are especially excited to see.

Fisher is also excited to see how the first-years fare in this hostile environment, but overall expects them to do well. 

“There’s only one way to find out,” Fisher said about the first-year’s ability to deal with pressure. “We had 5,000 at Kentucky we’ve had some really big crowds. I think they’ve proven along the way they can handle some pressure, so I expect them to do well.”

But for Fairbanks, the game will simply come down to who wants it more. 

“Who wants it more?” Fairbanks said. “Who cares more.”

About the Contributor
Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer