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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

Preview | Pitt volleyball prepares for Sweet Sixteen

First-year+outside+hitter+Torrey+Stafford+%284%29+and+graduate+student+middle+blocker+Chiamaka+Nwokolo+%2820%29+jump+to+block+a+ball+during+Friday+night%E2%80%99s+volleyball+match+against+Coppin+State+in+the+first+round+of+the+2023+NCAA+Tournament+at+the+Petersen+Events+Center.+
Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer
First-year outside hitter Torrey Stafford (4) and graduate student middle blocker Chiamaka Nwokolo (20) jump to block a ball during Friday night’s volleyball match against Coppin State in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at the Petersen Events Center.

No. 1 Pitt (27-4, ACC 16-2) volleyball has continued their winning ways and gets another weekend of NCAA Tournament play in Pittsburgh. The Panthers take on No. 4 Washington State (26-7, Pac-12 14-6) Thursday at 2:30 p.m. The winner of that matchup advances to the Elite Eight to take on either No. 3 Creighton (29-4, Big East 16-2) or No. 2 Louisville (26-4, ACC 15-3) on Saturday.

The second weekend of the NCAA Tournament is where volleyball fans get to see the best of the best play each other. And in the Fitzgerald Field House, volleyball fans will see that this weekend.

Here is my preview of all three of the Panthers’ potential opponents this weekend:

Washington State 

The Cougars finished the regular season ranked No. 10 and had a strong finish to their season after stumbling in late October and early November, losing five of seven games.

Washington State is coming into the Fitzgerald Field House with a seven-game winning streak, the same as the Panthers. So far in the NCAA Tournament, the Cougars have swept Grand Canyon and defeated No. 5 Dayton in four sets.

The Cougars are no stranger to playing top 25 teams this season — their matchup with the Panthers on Thursday is their 12th matchup against a top 25 team. In those games, Washington State has a 7-4 record. Thursday afternoon’s matchup is also the Cougars’ eighth top-10 matchup of the season. The Cougars are less successful in those matchups with a record of 3-4.

Like the Panthers, Washington State has two first-team all-conference players, and the majority of their starting lineup was named to a Pac-12 All-Conference team. The Pac-12 named fifth-year middle blocker Magda Jehlářová and fifth-year outside hitter Pia Timmer to their All-Conference team — both are crucial to the Cougars’ success.

Jehlářová is one of the best players to ever play for Washington State. The middle blocker is the first Pac-12 volleyball player to ever get named to five different All-Conference teams, using the extra COVID-19 year to her advantage.

The Pac-12 has named Jehlářová to five different All-Conference teams because she is a force at the net. She recently became the all-time NCAA leader in blocks with 766. 

This season, Jehlářová averages 1.39 blocks per set and has a hitting percentage of .431, both of which lead the Pac-12.

Jehlářová’s first-team All-Conference teammate, Timmer, is on the verge of breaking a record as well. The outside hitter is one more service ace from becoming Washington State’s all-time leader in aces.

Besides dominating at the service line, Timmer leads the Cougars in kills with 414, which is good for seventh best in the Pac-12. On top of this, Timmer has a respectable hitting percentage of .243. 

Creighton

The Blue Jays finished the regular season ranked No. 17 and are currently on a 17-game winning streak. 17 victories in a row is second-best in the entire tournament field, only behind Kentucky, who is on an 18-game winning streak.

So far in the NCAA Tournament, Creighton has swept both of their opponents, Colgate and Minnesota.

Creighton is a dynasty in the Big East, as this year marks the 10th year in a row that it has won a Big East regular season championship. 

Helping their dominance in the Big East is junior setter Kendra Wait, who won both Big East Setter of the Year and Big East Player of the Year.

Wait led the Creighton offense to a hitting percentage of .286 — far and away the best hitting percentage in the Big East.

The Blue Jays defense is also best in the Big East, despite rotating through three different liberos throughout the season. Creighton’s defense has held their opponents to a .139 hitting percentage.

Louisville

The Cardinals finished the regular season right behind the Panthers, ranked No. 5, and have won three games in a row since their last matchup with the Panthers.

Panther fans should remember the Cardinals’ two best players — junior libero Elena Scott, who had 24 digs, and senior outside hitter Anna DeBeer, who had 29 kills and a hitting percentage of .404. 

For the Panthers to come out as victors against Louisville if they match up on Saturday, they can’t allow DeBeer to have the same dominance she had in their last game. 

The only time the Cardinals have lost this season when DeBeer had a hitting percentage over .250 was against Pitt. Besides that, the Cardinals are a perfect 14-0 when DeBeer hits over .250. In the three other Cardinals losses, DeBeer had hitting percentages of .136, .222 and .000. 

Stopping DeBeer goes a long way for the Panthers’ chances of winning.

Scott is someone the Panthers can’t do much to stop. She makes stellar defensive plays, which is a huge reason why she won ACC Defensive Player of the Year. The junior libero is a force the Panthers will have to try to avoid.

If the Cardinals play the Panthers on Saturday, it’s a National Championship-caliber matchup.

“Louisville is obviously a great team,” head coach Dan Fisher said in his post-game press conference after playing Louisville. “And they have a chance to win a national championship.”

About the Contributor
Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer