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Pitt Volleyball

Pitt VB HC Dan Fisher Looks to Break Attendance Record Against No. 4 Louisville



Pitt volleyball head coach Dan Fisher

PITTSBURGH — Pitt volleyball head coach Dan Fisher has an incredibly busy week ahead of his team’s matchup with rival No. 4 Louisville this Saturday at the Petersen Events Center.

The players and coaches are working to face off against their biggest rival in the ACC and in Division I overall, not just on the court, but off the court as well. Instead of playing at Fitzgerald Field House, the usual home facility, Pitt will face Louisville at the Petersen Events Center, with the goal of breaking their program attendance record at the match.

Pitt set the previous attendance record back in 2019 against rival Penn State on Sept. 22, 2019, which saw 5,195 fans watch a brilliant five set match that fell in favor of the road team.

Fisher looks forward to this matchup and has confidence that this match will break the attendance record. Doing so would demonstrate the growth of the sport in the region and the respect that the program has earned in his 11 seasons as head coach, which includes three straight Elite Eights and back-t0-back Final Fours.

“…We look forward to showing the country that, not just Pitt is a volleyball school, but that the city of Pittsburgh loves volleyball,” Dan Fisher said in a media briefing Tuesday afternoon at the Petersen Events Center. “So we’re just really excited for a great event.”

The goal of breaking this attendance record comes with a balance of preparing for that match, while also promoting it. Fisher has the bulk of the work, but the players have helped as well. This includes showing up at the men’s basketball game Monday night and participating in a t-shirt toss to bring more fans to the match on Saturday.

Fisher and the staff give the players itineraries that help them breakdown their time between their studies, practice, film and free time. This helps the players not just prepare for this match, but also for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, which the Panthers will likely go deep in once again.

Pitt brings great momentum into this match, as they swept then ranked No. 8 Georgia Tech last Friday in Atlanta. Pitt hit .440 as a team and first-year right side hitter Olivia Babcock had a great match herself, she led Pitt with 15 kills and had an incredible .652 hitting percentage. She was also second with four total blocks, had three digs and tied with sophomore libero/defensive specialist Dillyn Griffin for two services aces, best on Pitt. For her efforts she received AVCA/GameChanger Women’s Division I Player of the Week and ACC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Both teams faced each other prior this season, as Louisville swept Pitt at the KFC Yum! Center back on Oct. 13. Louisville hit .388 in the match, more than a .150 increase from the next highest Pitt opponent this season, while also out-blocking Pitt, 6-3. Pitt leads the nation in blocks per set, 3.05 and the three total blocks against Louisville serves as the lowest mark for the team this season.

Fisher spoke on how close the sets were, as Pitt lost by a combined nine points, showing how close both teams were in the end, despite the sweep. A big focus for Pitt in this upcoming matchup is a better defensive effort, which Fisher said will lead to the victory.

Pitt volleyball started playing in the Petersen Events Center in 2018, with a sweep over Georgia Tech on Nov. 22 the first ever match there. They hold a 10-3 record overall in the facility, with losses coming to Michigan and Cincinnati in Second Round of the 2018 and 2019 NCAA Tournaments, respectively, as well as the Penn State match in 2019. They have a six-match winning streak in the facility, including 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament.

Pitt missed two seasons without a regular season game in the Petersen Events Center thanks to COVID-19, until a five set thriller against No. 13 Georgia Tech in November last season.

The Panthers defeated the then ranked No. 15 Kentucky Wildcats in four sets back on Sept. 3, for their first match at the Petersen Events Center this season.

Fisher wants to play regular season matches at the Petersen Events Center. Playing Kentucky and Louisville provides his players with the necessary experience to play the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. While it isn’t as hostile as the smaller, more intimate Fitzgerald Field House, the home crowd is still there to support Pitt the entire way, which is always crucial for Dan Fisher and his players.

“It is a change,” Fisher said. “It’s a little less of a home court advantage. With the basketball game the night before, we’re not getting the practice time we normally would, but we feel like it’s the same for both teams and we have the crowd on our side…”

Louisville hosted Pitt at the KFC Yum! Center, their basketball arena, which holds 21,500 for volleyball, compared to L&N Federal Credit Union Arena, which holds just 1,100. The Petersen Events Center has a capacity of 12,500 for volleyball and the Fitzgerald Field House is at 4,122 for comparison.

The improved attendance shows the increased interest from fans in the two programs and the sport as a whole, something that Dan Fisher loves to see.

“I think what it says is that we both have smaller gyms, and our rivalry has outgrown maybe playing in the smaller gyms,” Fisher said. “I think that says a lot about our rivalry and something about women’s volleyball, nationally.”

Pitt volleyball normally plays matches on Friday and Sunday, so a Saturday matchup is quite unique. Thanks to Pitt football playing Thursday night against Boston College, Pitt has a free Saturday to bring more fans in, which comes at a cost for a spot-on television. Fisher still believes that bringing in more fans is worth losing or not having a television slot, as the benefits long term for the region’s support of volleyball outweigh a bigger national audience.

“We knew it was out of our control when we decided to play on Saturday, but we felt like maybe it wasn’t as good for TV, but the timing of it was good for getting a great crowd,” Fisher said. “Our football’s playing on Thursday, Steelers playing on Sunday, we have Light Up Night later. So, I think, other than the students, a lot of them being home, I think, [for] the Pittsburgh community, this timing made a lot of sense.”

Louisville has overtaken Pitt in the rivalry recently, with three straight wins, including the Final Four last season, and six of the past seven matches. Still, Pitt won the last match at home in five sets last season, and with a No. 1 seed and ACC Title on the line, this upcoming match should feature as one of the best of the regular season in the sport. 

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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