No. 8 Pitt Volleyball takes on their best non-conference opponent in the regular season Thursday night, as they face off against No. 7 Oregon in a top 10 battle.
Pitt comes into this matchup 6-1 on the season. After losing to then ranked No. 17 BYU in four sets to open the season, they have won their past six matches and have dropped only one set. This includes home-and-away victories against then ranked No. 15 Kentucky and a sweep of then ranked No. 24 Marquette last Friday.
Oregon have only lost once this season, with then ranked No. 10 Minnesota defeating them in five sets in Stanford, Calif. last Friday. They have only dropped two sets all season outside of that loss and hold wins over then ranked No. 13 San Diego to open the season and then ranked No. 15 Ohio State last Saturday.
A big part of the Panthers success this season is due to their great freshman class that has come in and excelled so early on in their collegiate careers.
Right-side hitter Olivia Babcock leads the Panthers in kills with 67 and 2.91 per set, points with 84.0 and is incredibly efficient, hitting .389 so far. She is also second on the Panthers with 25.0 total blocks.
Outside hitter Torrey Stafford has also dominated at the net like Babcock, as she is second on Pitt with 61 kills, 2.77 per set, and 71.5 points. She is also fourth on the team with 19.0 total blocks.
Junior duo in libero/defensive specialist Emmy Klika and setter Rachel Fairbanks are also dominating at their positions. Klika leads with 87 digs, 3.78 per set and Fairbanks has 159 assists so far, good for 6.91 per set.
Michigan State transfer in graduate middle blocker Emma Monks has had a great season so far. With both Florida transfer in junior Bre Kelley and graduate Chiamaka Nwokolo dealing with injures early on in 2023, Monks has stepped up and made 28 kills, good for 1.87 per set, hit .500 and is first on Pitt with 26.0 total blocks.
Sophomore middle blocker Rachel Jepsen has also seen her time on the court increase with those injuries and has excelled, with 22.0 total blocks, third best on the team, and hitting .359.
Redshirt senior Valeria Vasquez Gomez continues to dominate on all areas of the court. She is third on the team in kills with 41 and is tied for second on the team with Fairbanks in digs with 41, 1.95 per set in both categories.
The Ducks also bring in an excellent squad that will challenge the Panthers throughout their matchup.
Sophomore outside hitter Mimi Coyler is first on Oregon with 127 kills, 4.54 per set, and with 147.5 points, 5.27 per set. Redshirt senior setter Hannah Pukis leads Oregon with 318 assists, 11.36 per set, while senior libero Georgia Murphy leads with 85 digs, 3.04 per set.
The Ducks also have a great middle blocker duo in senior Kara McGhee and redshirt senior Karson Bacon. McGhee is first on the Ducks with 36.0 total blocks and has a solid hitting percentage of .448, while Bacon is second with 32.0 total blocks.
Another player to look out for senior outside hitter Gabby Gonzales, who is second on Oregon with 88 kills, 3.14 per set, and with 100 points, 3.57 per set.
This is only the third meeting between the two programs, with Pitt winning the previous two in 1978 and 2019.
Pitt volleyball needs this win going forward, as they look to try and earn a top four seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, while Oregon will be looking to do the same thing, of course.
Oregon is the first top 10 team to come to Pitt since Ohio State did it last year, where Pitt dominated and swept in three straight sets.
Pitt Volleyball hosts Oregon as a part of the Panther challenge this weekend. They will also face off against James Madison on Saturday at 7 p.m. and then High Point next Sunday, Sept. 17 at 1 p.m.