Pitt takes on Colgate Friday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Panthers earned a No. 2 seed in this year’s tournament during the selection show on Sunday. This allows them to host the first two rounds this weekend, and if they win, they move onto Madison, Wis. next week.
This is the fourth time of the past five years that Pitt hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. They won the opening match in the first two years but lost the second match. They broke the streak in 2020-21, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire tournament moved to Omaha, Neb. After making it to the Elite Eight in the prior season, the Panthers earned a No. 1 seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament and won the initial four matches to make it to their first ever Final Four.
Pitt returns to the NCAA Tournament and looking to achieve their goal of a national title. They must first defeat Colgate, if they want to get anywhere close to a championship.
The teams only met up once previously in 2015, where Pitt defeated Colgate in a sweep.
The Raiders (24-5) won the Patriot League Championship for a second consecutive season. They swept the Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament and then outlasted Navy in five sets to take the title on Nov. 20.
Head coach Ryan Baker is in his 17th season at Colgate. He has led the program to three NCAA Tournament appearances, including two straight, and to three Patriot League regular season championships in the past four seasons. Baker has led Colgate to nine Patriot League Championship Final appearances, and they have only finished outside the top four of the conference twice under his reign.
“They play pretty fast,” Pitt head coach Dan Fisher said about Colgate on Wednesday. “I think they’re pretty balanced. They’re a two-setter offense, so they always have three front row hitters. From what I’ve seen they’re pretty regular. They don’t go on big dips. I think they’re good. They made this tournament for a reason.”
Graduate setter Julia Kurowski earned both Patriot League Player of the Year and Setter of the Year honors, one of just two Raiders to ever do so. This is the third time she has earned the Setter of the Year award and currently holds the program record for career assists, with 4,055. Standing at 6-foot-1, she also stars defensively, sitting in second on the Raiders in digs with 232 and third in total blocks at 71.0.
Joining Kurowski is sophomore setter Sydney Jones, who is second on Colgate with 500 assists in 2022.
The Raiders boast a solid duo of middle blockers in senior Sophie Thompson and junior Harper Sydney. Sydney ranks fourth on the team with 180 kills and Thompson ranks fifth with 139 kills. Sydney ranks first with a .328 hitting percentage and 91.0 total blocks, while Thompson is in third place at .284 and second with 84.0 total blocks.
Sophomore outside hitter Abby Shadwick leads Colgate in kills with 302 this season and earned All-League First-Team honors. Her 3.05 kills per set in the regular season was ninth best in the Patriot League and she finished with a .267 hitting percentage.
Another outside hitter on the Raiders to look out for is first-year Carlie Rzeszotarski, as she is third best in kills with 192 this year.
Junior Libero and Oakland Catholic alum Taylor Cigna ranks first on Colgate with 104 sets played and with 425 digs in 2022. First-year libero Rachel Martinez has 172 digs on the season in a back-up role to Cigna.
Junior opposite side hitter Gillian Hauschild missed the middle portion of the season. She returned in early October and is playing some of the best volleyball for the Raiders right now. Hauschild made 113 kills and hit .306 during the time she spent healthy on the court in 2022.
While many might look at this team and overlook them, Fisher and the Panthers are preparing to take on a tough mid-major school who will play their very best to earn a massive upset Friday night.