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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 track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

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Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

Pitt volleyball showcases future in spring game

Senior+opposite+hitter+Rachel+Fairbanks+%2810%29+spikes+the+ball+during+Saturday+night%E2%80%99s+game+against+Ohio+State+in+the+Fitzgerald+Field+House.
Ethan Shulman | Visual Editor
Senior opposite hitter Rachel Fairbanks (10) spikes the ball during Saturday night’s game against Ohio State in the Fitzgerald Field House.

Change is expected in the offseason, even for a program that made three consecutive Final Four appearances. For Pitt volleyball, even with change, some things stay the same, and that’s winning. In Pitt’s exhibition Saturday afternoon against Ohio State, the Panthers won all four of their sets, 25-21, 25-20, 25-22 and 25-23.

Spring exhibitions don’t always excite fans and players because, in the broad scope of things, the game doesn’t matter. But head coach Dan Fisher was still really excited to see that his team and supporters showed up. 

“I was actually really pleased. We came out ready to go,” Fisher said. “And I thought the crowd was good for a spring game which was really great.”

Senior setter Rachel Fairbanks reiterated that her team was ready for Saturday’s exhibition after not competing since mid-December.

“We were all super excited to play,” Fairbanks said. “It’s been a while without competition with another team.” 

Sophomore outside hitters Blaire Bayless and Olivia Babcock were the most amped up in helping the Panthers find their spring success, both tallying over ten kills in the four-set sweep.

Babcock’s domination is a given for Pitt fans, but Bayless’ impressive game is a different sight for viewers. Fisher, however, expects even more from Bayless as the spring season continues.

“She certainly is capable of being a really big force for us,” Fisher said. “So as the spring games go on, I want to see her be that force with the ability to play without giving up easy points to the other team.”

Bayless isn’t the only Panther with high expectations in the spring. Both first-year middle blockers, Ryla Jones and Bianca Garibaldi, are taking over a position that lost two student-athletes to graduation and was plagued by injuries from redshirt junior Bre Kelley and junior Rachel Jepsen in the 2023 season.

“They have taken on a huge role,” Fairbanks said. “They are soaking it all in, learning everything they can and they are beasts, so it is super fun to watch them grow. In the three months that they have been here, they have already grown so much.”

The first-year duo showed their maturity on the defensive side of the ball against the Buckeyes, as they both tallied multiple blocks. 

Graduate student Cat Flood — who started her career at Pitt as a middle blocker — knows that the first-years have hardly touched the surface of their potential and are still learning the intricacies of collegiate volleyball.

“It’s going to be a learning process for sure,” Flood said. “Transitioning from club volleyball to college volleyball, the biggest difference is the setting and how fast it is. That’s definitely a big hump for them to get over. I think they did really well today. We are just working on timing and all of that stuff, but they are getting there.”

Flood herself had an even crazier offseason than adjusting to college life. She entered the transfer portal on Dec. 19 and looked around for a new school but ultimately found herself back at Pitt on Feb. 16. 

“The reason why I went into the [transfer] portal was because of my chosen Masters,” Flood said. “I really wanted to do sports management. They had nothing of the sort at Pitt … I ended up talking to [Pitt’s] academic adviser over the course of those six weeks [in the transfer portal], and we figured out a program that was going to work.”

And Flood was so glad she found her way back to Pittsburgh.

“I can’t imagine myself anywhere else,” Flood said. “I need to put this jersey on forever.”

Fisher believes Flood showed Pitt fans against Ohio State why the program is ecstatic to have her return.

“I think today the fans could see why we are so excited to have her back,” Fisher said after Flood finished the game with four aces and multiple kills. “She helps this team in many ways, she is a great competitor and I thought she showed that today.”

Pitt’s spring season is all about improving. It is by no means a perfect transition from 2023 to 2024 with all of the changes, but it’s important the team improves day in and day out.

“It’s going well,” Fisher said. “I’m a coach, so it’s never going as well as I want. I’m pleased that we are healthy and that we are getting some players a lot of touches and experience that didn’t get as much last year … We are looking at the next month to see how much better we can get in that timeframe.”

About the Contributor
Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer