PITTSBURGH — A year after Pitt volleyball went on their deepest tournament run in program history, the Panthers managed to surpass their previous height by advancing to the Final Four.
With most of the team returning thanks to the COVID-exempt 2020 season, the Panthers were able to avoid roster turnover.
Graduate outside hitter Kayla Lund said that her initial reaction to making the Final Four after the 2020 team came up short was one of mixed feelings.
“It was obviously really emotional, all kinds of emotion. Happy tears, maybe even some pissed off tears, because we knew that we could be here,” Lund said. “Feeling surreal, feeling really freaking excited.”
In addition to returning players like Lund, a pair of high profile transfers galvanized the Panthers’ championship run.
Leketor Member-Meneh and Serena Gray paced the Panthers offense in their Elite Eight victory over Purdue with 20 and 14 kills, respectively. While the benefits of transferring to a powerhouse like Pitt are obvious, both athletes said that it wasn’t the Panthers winning ways that sold them on coming to Pittsburgh: it was the team culture.
Member-Meneh said that she knew Pitt was the right choice for her almost immediately.
“As soon as I got to talk to my coaches and meet my team in person,” Member-Meneh said. “You just feel good vibes, you know good energy. When you get here, we have strong goals, strong morals, strong team culture. Win or not, this is the place I wanted to be”.
Gray said she was sold on the Panthers before she’d met them in person.
“The first zoom call I had with the coaching staff, they just really had their mind set with what they wanted to do with this program, they had a lot of confidence in their players,” Gray said. “That’s when I was like ‘okay, I know what choice I’m going to make, and this is going to be a great choice.’”