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The Pitt News

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The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

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A portrait of Chancellor Joan Gabel.
Senate Council holds final meeting of semester, recaps recent events
By Anna Kuntz, Senior Staff Writer • May 14, 2024
Column | A thank you to student journalists
By Betul Tuncer, Editor-in-Chief • April 27, 2024

Pitt volleyball takes care of Penn State in front of a packed crowd

Head+coach+Dan+Fisher+speaks+to+the+team+after+the+women%E2%80%99s+volleyball+game+against+Penn+State+on+Sunday+afternoon+in+the+Fitzgerald+Field+House.
Nate Yonamine | Assistant Visual Editor
Head coach Dan Fisher speaks to the team after the women’s volleyball game against Penn State on Sunday afternoon in the Fitzgerald Field House.

In the spring months, there isn’t much going on at the Fitzgerald Field House. Maybe some track practices or intramural volleyball games, but nothing of huge importance to a Pitt fan. But on Sunday, Pitt volleyball gave the 73-year-old building the purpose reminiscent of the fall and winter months. 

The Panthers hosted rival Penn State in front of a packed and raucously loud crowd for an exhibition game. When things got close late in the sets, the crowd chanted “Let’s go Pitt” so loudly that it made the game against the Nittany Lions feel as if it had the same stakes as a traditional regular season game. 

The energy from the Pitt faithful and the play from the student-athletes allowed the Panthers to earn their third win of the spring season by defeating the Nittany Lions in four sets. 

Sophomore outside hitter Blaire Bayless, who finished the afternoon with eight kills, didn’t expect to play in front of this passionate crowd on Sunday, but she understands how great of a fan base Pitt has.

“I do know we have one of the best fan bases in the country,” Bayless said. “So it is really cool they come out and support us for these spring games. Especially for a [rivalry] game against Penn State. It is really cool to see them come out and support us on a random Sunday.”

On this random April Sunday, the Panthers started out struggling against the Nittany Lions. Penn State took advantage of Pitt from the service line and had it out-of-system throughout the first set.

Junior libero Emmy Klika wishes she had more film to study before facing the Nittany Lions but enjoys the in-game adjustments she and her team had to make during Sunday’s game.

“It’s hard to scout an opponent in the spring because they have new players and new pieces,” Klika said. “You try to piece as much as you can. So for the serving scout, it was based on [Penn State’s] last year serving. It’s kind of cool ‘cause you can figure out how to combat it in the game.”

After the first set, Klika and the rest of the Panthers’ passers made a strong adjustment against the Penn State serve. They kept the Panthers in-system the majority of the time and allowed offensive weapons like first-year outside hitter Olivia Babcock to finish the game with 20 kills.

Babcock was happy overall with her hitting throughout the game on Sunday. But from the service line, she was upset with the four service errors she had.

“It was definitely up and down,” Babcock said. “It was an interesting experience today. There were a lot of bad moments, but there were also a lot of good moments. I’m pretty content with my performance. I wish my serving was a bit better, definitely having an off day there, but I’m proud of how I was able to contribute otherwise.”

Babcock’s offensive and defensive contributions were part of the main reason Pitt won the second, third and fourth sets. 

Another main contributor to the Panthers’ success was Bayless, who struggled for the majority of the game and finished with the same number of kills as errors. 

But it mattered most late in the third set, when the rivals were fighting to win by two. Bayless came in clutch with two kills that helped Pitt close out a 28-26 victory in the third set.

Bayless, however, doesn’t give credit to herself for Pitt’s ability to close out the third set. She saw it as a whole team effort, with everyone understanding what they needed to do.

“I think it was just everything started going right,” Bayless said. “[Klika] got some crazy digs up, our setters were teeing it up, our blockers were getting good touches. It just really worked out that the whole team really started to click and work together right when we needed to at the end of the third set.”

Kilka’s “crazy digs” are due to her ability to understand the tendencies of the Penn State hitters, as well as her own confidence. 

“Throughout the game, learning the tendencies of the hitters,” Kilka said. “In bigger moments, just relying on my eyes and what I am reading from the hitter along with what I know their comfort tendency is in a high-pressure moment. I trusted myself, and I trusted what I knew about the hitter.”

Klika has time to understand the Nittany Lion’s tendencies more this week before the Panthers get to travel to State College, Pennsylvania, on Friday for a game Babcock sees as a game Pitt needs to win.

“Start good, play hard and show them who owns Pennsylvania,” Babcock said.

By no means are the Panthers expecting any easy game in Happy Valley. Bayless knows Penn State can host as crazy of a crowd as Pitt can host.

“We have heard crazy things about that fan base as well in that stadium,” Bayless said. “I have seen videos of it on social media, so I am excited to get a piece of it ourselves.”

About the Contributor
Matthew Scabilloni, Senior Staff Writer