Pitt graduate right side hitter Courtney Buzzerio is playing some of the best volleyball of her life, as she leads her team’s attack in their quest for a national title.
Buzzerio leads the team in kills with 255, averaging 3.59 per set, and also in points with 299.0, 4.21 per set. Her 4.21 points per set also ranks sixth in the ACC and her 3.59 kills per set ranks eighth. She is also playing an extremely efficient attacking game as well, with her .348 hitting percentage, which is second best for Pitt and ninth in the ACC.
15 kills today 😤
4.83 kills/set on .391 hitting over the weekend 😳
— Pitt Volleyball (@Pitt_VB) September 18, 2022
Volleyball has always been a fixture in Buzzerio’s life even from a young age. Coming from a family of volleyball players, she had two older sisters who played and also her mother who played and coached at her local high school. She started playing club volleyball at eight years old for an 11-year-old team. She spent much of her youth in the gym, developing her game into what it is today and her love for the sport.
“Stuck with it,” Buzzerio said. “Didn’t play any other sports. Just volleyball. Never played basketball, never did anything like that. I think that says something. When your whole family is in volleyball, it’s kind of hard to deviate from that, but I didn’t want to deviate from that so just kept going with it.”
Buzzerio continued to garner attention through her performances on her club and high school teams. She initially received interest from colleges going into her first year of high school and then serious offers came towards the end of that year and into her sophomore year.
She committed to play for Iowa in the stout Big Ten conference. Buzzerio improved her game and starred for the Hawkeyes, making the Spring 2021 First-Team All-Big Ten, the first time for the program in over 20 years, and Second-Team All-Big Ten in 2021.
While Buzzerio played at a high level, Iowa did not. The team won 19 conference games and lost 61 over her four years there, meaning they won just 31.1% of their conference games.
She graduated from Iowa and looked to use her last year of eligibility elsewhere. It didn’t take long for teams to reach out, as Pitt assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Kellen Petrone contacting her in December 2021.
Buzzerio knew about Pitt prior, since she played club volleyball with sophomore setter Rachel Fairbanks. It also helped that she knew graduate middle blocker Serena Gray, as well as recently graduated outside hitter Kayla Lund, both of whom are from California.
She said that Petrone contacted her quickly after her decision to enter the transfer portal, but since Pitt were currently playing tournament volleyball, it ended up being a slower process throughout December and January. Buzzerio knew that Pitt was the place for her, almost immediately after arriving.
“It was difficult on paper I think, but once I got onto the campus and talked to the coaches face-to-face, it was a no-brainer,” Buzzerio said. “I committed two days after I got on campus.”
The change from Iowa to Pitt is one that Buzzerio finds exhilarating. While Pitt is currently one of the best volleyball programs in the country, Buzzerio witnessed the preparation and expectations shift drastically. Every player on the team wants to improve their game and get better every day, even when there is an off day, and captains take initiative to make every practice the best it can be.
“I think overall, top to bottom, the level of care and commitment towards the program and the expectations…our goal is to go to the Final Four and win a National Championship,” Buzzerio said. “That’s a no brainer that everyone’s had and that’s a big thing.”
The coaching staff, led by head coach Dan Fisher, is a large part of Buzzerio’s development into a potential All-American this season. Buzzerio said she thought that just playing a more competitive gym would improve her game, but that the coaching is a big part as well.
🧹 PITT SWEEPS FSU 🧹
— James Santelli is RADical (@JamesSantelli) October 16, 2022
“I think I’ve gotten better drastically at such a fast rate, and that’s a testament to them,” Buzzerio said. “They care and they’re not going to take a day off because they’re just going to keep pushing me because they know I can be better.”
Fisher said that everyone wanted Buzzerio when she put her name in the transfer portal, calling her a “proven commodity.” He knew that she played setter at times previously, but with the right setter position open on his team, he needed a player like her to fill that role.
“She absolutely has exceeded expectations and has been a huge blessing on our programs,” Fisher said. “We were losing Chi[naza Ndee]. I felt like, “Hey at the minimum this is someone that can kind of carry the same type of load that Chi did.” But I would argue that probably she’s carrying a bigger load. We’re setting her a lot of balls out of system, and she’s been delivering.”
In terms of quality between the Big Ten and the ACC, it’s obvious that the Big Ten is the tougher conference. Seven teams from the Big Ten have a place in the latest AVCA Poll and three teams rank higher than Pitt, who are currently at No. 8.
Buzzerio understands the quality of the Big Ten with her time as a Hawkeye. She described it as a constant grind that pits you against a ranked team almost every weekend, whether it be a powerhouse like Nebraska or another tough team like Michigan. The game plan against those big teams when she played for Iowa mainly included believing they could knock off the big teams, regardless of who they were
She now finds herself on the opposite side on a top ten team as a Panther. She said it’s interesting to see both sides of going from the team trying to assert themselves, versus now playing as the favorite in almost all matches.
“I take that knowing those girls on that team think they can win this match and they want to win this match really badly, because I was that person last year,” Buzzerio said. “So having that experience of knowing, “No, we’re going to put our foot down, going to assert dominance, show that we are the better and deserve to be seen as this big top ten team.”
Despite the Big Ten’s dominance, the ACC as a conference is steadily rising and improving. Pitt played Georgia Tech in a top ten battle on Oct. 9 and defeated them in four sets on the road in a crucial game for ACC supremacy.
Buzzerio sees the talent in the ACC and acknowledges that there are no days off against any opponent within a Power Five conference.
“I think the ACC for sure is getting very good, top-to-bottom,” Buzzerio said. “”It shows that Virginia and Duke gave pretty good fights and if we let them in, they’re going to take it. They’re ready to take those sets and matches from us if we don’t come in with our A-game.”
After winning three straight ACC Championships from 2017-19, Louisville has won the past two. The first matchup comes next Sunday, Oct. 23 at Fitzgerald Field House, which should see a full house and raucous crowd ready to support Pitt.
Buzzerio loves the environment and the Panthers, as a whole, appreciate the energy brought by the fans, especially the band. She said that the one game they didn’t show up, the team missed them, but that they’ve made their presence felt every other game this season. She also said that she enjoys the difference of fans and the emergence of the student section, VolleyPitt.
“I think it’s really fun that there’s a good amount of students that come,” Buzzerio said. “That’s different than I had in my previous years, is it’s mainly just spectators. I think students bring a really different energy then just clapping and cheering when we end points, so I think that’s really fun and different that we have here.”
Buzzerio is proud of her team’s performance this season, despite early losses to now No. 4 San Diego and Towson. Those losses served as wake-up calls for the Panthers and are providing them with the push they need to reclaim the top spot in the ACC. Still, she knows that they will need to step up their game to not just win the ACC but make a deep run in December.
As for her play, Buzzerio is happy with her performances. She likes the distribution from setters like Fairbanks to outside hitters in redshirt junior Valeria Vasquez Gomez and sophomore Julianna Dalton and that she’s not the main target constantly.
Buzzerio also sees the importance of her middle blockers in Gray, who leads the Panthers and is second in the ACC with a .405 hitting percentage, and senior Chiamaka Nwokolo, who each do a great job making kills and blocks in key moments.
The quick transition from Iowa to Pitt didn’t faze Buzzerio. She is roommates with some of the players on the team and has a bond with the older girls. Buzzerio said that she connected well with Gray and their experiences in Big Ten play, as she played for Penn State prior to Pitt. She also shared the same experience as graduate outside hitter Cam Ennis. Ennis transferred this season from Texas A&M and they both talk about the transition to the program.
Overall, she appreciates everyone on the team and the relationships they’ve made are crucial for success on and off the court.
“There’s a few just, different, little niches that everyone has that i can kind of relate to in some way,” Buzzerio said. “Then with the younger girls, I would have no problem with being one-on-one, going to dinner with each and every one of them. So, I think that’s cool and part of the culture that everyone’s a part of. We’re all pretty good friends. It’s not super separated groups, which is really cool.”