Pittsburgh Panthers women's volleyball

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Pittsburgh Panthers women's volleyball
Pitt Panthers wordmark.svg
University University of Pittsburgh
Head coach Dan Fisher (6th season)
Conference ACC
Location Pittsburgh, PA
Home arena Fitzgerald Field House (Capacity: 4,122)
Nickname Panthers
ColorsBlue and Gold [1]
AIAW/NCAA Regional Semifinal
1978, 1981, 1990
AIAW/NCAA Tournament appearance
1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2003, 2004, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
Regional AIAW Tournament appearance
1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981
Conference tournament champion
1982, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2003
Conference regular season champion
1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2003, 2017, 2018, 2019

Pittsburgh Panthers women's volleyball is the NCAA Division I intercollegiate volleyball program of the University of Pittsburgh, often referred to as "Pitt", located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pitt volleyball team competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and plays their home games in Fitzgerald Field House. Since the founding of the volleyball program in 1974, the Panthers have had a winning season all but four years, have one of the nation's top all-time winning percentages, [2] have appearanced in 18 national championship tournaments, and have won 14 conference championships including eleven as a member of the Big East Conference [3] and three since joining the ACC.



The beginning

Pitt women's volleyball was founded in 1974 and was led during its first season by coach Mary Kromer who guided the team, originally nicknamed the Pantherettes, to a 14–3 record in their first year of existence. Perhaps more impressively, in the first year of the program, and despite the fact that two of the starters never played volleyball before, the team was invited to participate in the Eastern Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (EAIAW) regional championship, where the team advanced to the quarterfinals. [4] Kromer continued as coach for the programs second season, in which the team posted an 18–2 record and again appeared in the EAIAW regional championships. [5]

Mike Hebert years

The 1978 Pitt volleyball team, coached by Mike Hebert and playing home games at Trees Hall, was the school's first to win the Eastern regional championship and advance to the collegiate volleyball national championships, then held by the AIAW, where they finished 13th in the nation 1978PittVBallteam.jpg
The 1978 Pitt volleyball team, coached by Mike Hebert and playing home games at Trees Hall, was the school's first to win the Eastern regional championship and advance to the collegiate volleyball national championships, then held by the AIAW, where they finished 13th in the nation

Prior to the 1976 season, Mike Hebert, a former player at the UC-Santa Barbara who was teaching at Pitt, was asked by the university to coach the women's team although he'd never seen women play volleyball. He eventually accepted the part-time job to coach the up-start program for $1,500. [6] Without many collegiate women's team sports in existence in the mid-1970s, Hebert and his team were pioneers who "invented things as [they] went along". [6] Despite this, Herbert guided the Panthers to a fourth-place finish in the EAIAW championships during his first two seasons. [5] Under his guidance, Pitt broke through to national prominence in 1978 winning the EAIAW Championship and advancing to the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) National Large College Volleyball Championships where they finished with a 2–3 record and a 13th place national finish en route to the program's first 40-win season. [7] His part-time position turning full-time in his final season in 1979, which saw the Panthers successfully defend their EAIAW Championship and earn a return trip to the AIWA national championships. [8] During this span he also collected EAIAW Eastern Region Coach of the Year awards at Pitt in 1978 and 1979. Herbert, who also served as an assistant coach for Pitt's men's team for the last two years of his stay in Pittsburgh, then left, citing family reasons, to take the head coaching job at the New Mexico, [9] eventually coaching at Illinois and Minnesota; along the way winning multiple national championships, the national coach of the year award, and earning induction into the American Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. [6]

Shelton Collier years

The program next turned to Ohio State assistant Shelton Collier, who in his initial season as head coach in 1980 guided the Panthers to a school record with 41 wins, and followed up in 1981 with a season that included a win at eighth-ranked Pepperdine, [10] an EAIWA Championship, and a ninth-place finish in the final year of the AIAW national championships. [11] In 1982, the women's volleyball program transitioned both into the NCAA, which took over the sponsorship of intercollegiate athletics from the AIWA, as well as into the Big East Conference. In addition, the program permanently moved their home games from their primary home in Trees Hall to the larger Fitzgerald Field House, which had previously hosted select volleyball tournaments and games. [12] During Collier's tenure, Pitt established itself as the dominant volleyball team in the Big East from the start, winning the regular season Big East Southern Division tournament, without losing a game and losing only one set, in every year in which it competed: 1982, 1983, and 1984. Pitt also won the first ever Big East Tournament in 1982 without losing a game en route to the program's second 41-win season. [13] Collier guided Pitt to capture additional Big East Tournament crowns in 1984, 1986, and 1988 and appeared in the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship in 1982, 1984, 1986, and 1987. [5]

Sue Woodstra years

Volleyball courts in Fitzgerald Field House FitzgeraldFieldHouseCourts.jpg
Volleyball courts in Fitzgerald Field House

Sue Woodstra, a silver medalist for the U.S. National Volleyball Team at the 1984 Summer Olympics, took over the Pitt program in 1989. During her tenure, she led her teams to Big East Conference Tournament Championships in each season as well as three Big East regular season championships, winning the regular season each year from when the Big East instituted round-robin play in 1990. She also led the Panthers to four post-season appearances including one Women's Invitation Volleyball Championship appearance in 1989 in which Pitt finished third, and three NCAA volleyball tournaments, including in 1990 where Pitt reached the regional semifinal and finished ranked 18th in the final American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Coaches poll. [14] Woodstra's teams NCAA tournament teams were led by standout second team All-American outside hitter Ann Marie Lucanie, who won the Big East Tournament MVP award four straight years as well as a record three straight Big East Player of the Year awards, including in her senior year in 1993 under new head coach Cindy Alvear. [3] In total, Woodstra compiled an overall record of 110–39 (.738) over four seasons as head coach. [15]

Alvear and Beerman years

Cindy Alvear took over in 1993 leading Pitt to Big East regular season championships, Big East Tournament championships, and NCAA Tournament appearances in her first two seasons. This was followed by second-place finishes in both the Big East regular season and tournaments in 1995 and 1996 with a National Invitational Volleyball tournament appearance in 1995. [15] Pitt program slipped in the late 1990s, experiencing its first losing Big East record in 1999. Chris Beerman took over the program in 2000 and helped lead the team back to a winning conference record. A losing record in 2001, Pitt's first ever, snapped one of the longest NCAA records for consecutive winning seasons. [16] However, the Panthers rebounded in a big way in 2003 by winning the Big East regular season and tournament championship and advancing into the second round of the NCAA tournament. A second-place finish Big East finish and at-large bid to the NCAA tournament followed in 2004, before the program experienced only its third losing season in 2007. [15]

Toby Rens years

Toby Rens was hired to take over the program in 2008, immediately restoring the program to a winning season and his first year. In 2009, despite being picked to finish eighth in the Big East, [17] Rens guided the Panthers to a school record twelve Big East wins and a second-place finish behind Big East Player of the Year and third team All-American middle hitter Meagan Dooley. Heading into the 2010 season, the Panthers faced ten 2009 NCAA Tournament participants, [18] but faltered to 13–18 record and a loss in the first round of the Big East Tournament. This was followed by an 18–15 record and a 17–14 record in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Following the 2012 season, Rens accepted the head coaching job at Chicago State University.

Dan Fisher era

Dan Fisher arrived as head coach the same year that Pitt entered the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013. [19] Fisher, who led Concordia University-Irvine to the 2012 NAIA National Championship with an overall two-year record of 72–2. [20] led Pitt to a 5th-place finish in its first year in the ACC, exceeding pre-season expectations that had Pitt picked to finish 13th in the conference. Pitt improved to 25–6 in Fisher's second year at Pitt. He led the Panthers back to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and 2017, as well as to the program's first ACC conference championship in 2017, for which he received ACC and AVCA East Coast Region Coach of the Year honors. [21] [22] In 2018, he led Pitt to its first top five AVCA coaches poll ranking in program history and its second straight ACC Championship [23] and earned his second straight ACC Coach of the Year honors. [24] In 2019, the program reached the highest national ranking ever achieved by an ACC team when it was voted #2 in the AVCA coaches poll, [25] won its third straight ACC conference championship with an 18-0 conference record, and received a program best sixth seed in the NCAA tournament. [26]

Team awards & accomplishments

Post-season national tournaments

Since the founding of its volleyball program in 1974, Pitt has participated in post-season volleyball tournaments in 25 different seasons. Post-season play include 15 NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship tournament appearances, 3 AIAW National Championship appearances, 8 EAIAW Regional championship appearances, and two NIVC tournament appearances.


Prior to the NCAA taking on the administration of women's sports and championships in 1981, the AIWA and its regional affiliates conducted regional and national championships in volleyball. In 1981, schools could compete in either the AIWA and NCAA and both organizations held championships, but by 1982, only the NCAA remained.


EAIWA Regional Championship appearances (8)

  • 1974 (quarterfinals)
  • 1975 (?)
  • 1976 (4th)
  • 1977 (4th)
  • 1978 (1st)
  • 1979 (1st)
  • 1980 (3rd)
  • 1981 (1st)

AIWA National Championship appearances (3)

  • 1978 AIWA National Large College Volleyball Championship (2–3, 13th)
Preliminary pool
W Oregon 2–0
W Alabama 2–1
L Texas-Arlington 0–2
L San Jose State 0–2
L Hawaii 0–2
  • 1981 AIWA National Division I Volleyball Championship (2–2, 9th)
Pool A
L Texas 15–6, 15–7, 15–10
L Michigan 15–8, 15–10, 14–16, 17–15
Consolation Bracket
W Ohio State 15–9, 15–9
9th Place
W California 15–12, 2–15, 16–14
  • 1979 AIWA National Division I Volleyball Championship (1–3)
Pool 4
L Pacific 13–15, 6–15
W Southern Illinois 15–8, 15–12
L Pepperdine 15–11, 5–15, 13–15
L Ohio State 6–15, 2–15


Pitt has participated in 15 NCAA Women's Volleyball Championships and has an overall record of 7–15 in the tournament.


The National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) was founded in 1989 as the Women's Invitational Volleyball Championship (WIVC). The post-season tournament existed for seven seasons from 1989 to 1995. Pitt participated in the post-season tournament in two seasons, finishing in 3rd place in 1989.

  • 1989 WIVC (3–1, 3rd place)
W UAB (3–0), W Iowa State (3–0), W Texas Tech (3–1), L Wisconsin (0–3)
  • 1995 NIVC (0–4)
L Fresno State (1–3), L Wisconsin (0–3), L Saint Louis (2–3), L Stephen F. Austin (0–3)

Big East Championships

Denise Frawley was a two-time Honorable Mention All-American, 1987 Big East Conference Player of the Year, and 1988 Big East Tournament MVP for Pitt Frawley Owl1988p132.jpg
Denise Frawley was a two-time Honorable Mention All-American, 1987 Big East Conference Player of the Year, and 1988 Big East Tournament MVP for Pitt

While a member of the Big East Conference between 1982 and 2012, Pitt won more Big East Tournament Championships (11) than any other school, winning seven straight from 1988 to 1994. [3] Additionally, Pitt has been the Big East tournament runner-up five times. The Big East Conference began holding conference tournaments to crown a champion in 1982, but did not conduct round-robin play and crown a regular season champion until 1990. Prior to 1990, the Big East schools were organized into divisions and sometimes held regular-season divisional tournaments.

Big East Championship Tournament

Big East Regular Season

The Big East did not begin sponsoring regular season conference play and regular season standings until 1990. Since that time, Pitt had won six regular season Big East Championships and finished second four times.

Big East Southern Division Tournament

In some years, prior to the establishment of round-robin conference play and standings in 1990, the Big East held regular season division tournaments. In the three years that Pitt participated in the Big East Southern Division Tournament, it did not lose a match and lost only one set to claim three Big East Southern Division Tournament titles.

Big East Southern Division Tournament Champions (3)

  • 1982 (3–0)
  • 1983 (3–0)
  • 1984 (6–0)

ACC Championships

Pitt became a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2013 and won its first ACC championship in 2017 and a subsequent conference championships in 2018 and 2019. The ACC recognizes the regular season champion as the conference champion and has not held a conference championship tournament since Pitt joined the conference.