Senior duo welcomes changes that new season, coaching staff bring


By Caitlin Hinsey / Staff Writer

Senior outside hitter Monica Wignot and senior defensive specialist Maria Nicholas have gone through a lot together during their four-year volleyball careers. This year — their final one in a Pitt uniform — has provided the most change for both players.

The first change the seniors endured occurred when it was announced that Pitt would become a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013, allowing the two girls to play in one of the nation’s most highly competitive volleyball conferences for one season.

The next change occurred last season on Jan. 15, when the hiring of new head coach Dan Fisher was announced. Wignot and Nicholas had only ever played for former coach Toby Rens during their time at Pitt, so the change would force them to adjust to a new system in their final seasons.

But with all this change came great opportunities for Wignot and Nicholas. None more important than the opportunity  to capture the one goal that has eluded them so far: to win the NCAA Tournament championship.

“The ACC is and will always be one of the top conferences in the nation. To be a good team in the ACC means you are one of the best teams in the nation,” head coach Dan Fisher said. “Playing in that league will prepare our team for the NCAA Tournament.”

Nicholas shares the same thoughts.

“Our team goal is to definitely make the NCAA Tournament,” Nicholas said. “We have the potential to be great even though we are a younger team in the ACC. Our short-term goal as a team is to remember to play our game and knowing that we have the skill to be a great team.”

Nicholas also believes that being a member of the ACC is a step in the right direction for Pitt and is “really happy that [she and Wignot] get one year to play” in the conference.

Last season, the team finished 17-14, which landed it in a tie for sixth place in the Big East Conference. The team lost in the Big East Tournament and did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The team last played in the national tournament in 2004.

Wignot is looking forward to playing Maryland and Virginia Tech in conference play just to see how the Panthers will fare against them and “to see how they have grown.” In the spring, Pitt defeated both teams — along with American University — and won seven of the nine sets in which the Panthers played.

Having the chance to play in such a competitive conference allows Wignot and Nicholas to help lead their younger teammates in a new direction. Both hope to leave a lasting impact on their teammates, on and off the court.

One quality they hope their teammates will emulate is the hard work and dedication that they give every day.

“Just give it everything that you have on the court and off the court, knowing that you are representing Pitt volleyball wherever you are,” Nicholas said.

Wignot mirrored these sentiments.

“I’m the type of person who leads a lot by example,” Wignot stated. “Just a lot of hard work, dedication, coming into practice focused. I definitely hope they see that I am doing that and kind of respond by doing the same.”

The hard work and leadership skills they exhibit have also been reasons behind the successful seasons that Wignot and Nicholas have had at Pitt.

Personally, Wignot looks to keep improving as a player on the court and as a teammate off the court. Last season, Wignot was named to the second team All-Big East. After moving to middle blocker, she had an average of 1.07 blocks per set game, ranking her eighth in conference play.

Nicholas hopes to continue to be a positive influence on her teammates and hopes for nothing more than the team to win.

While neither Wignot nor Nicholas have immediate plans that include volleyball after graduation, both admit that coaching is something they might look into in their futures.

“[Volleyball is] always going to be a part of my life one way or the other,” Wignot said.