Fisher Leading Pitt’s Best Program: Volleyball

Soccer and cross-country programs looking for strong 2018 seasons

Josh Rowntree
August 08, 2018 - 5:19 pm
Pitt volleyball coach Dan Fisher at Fall Sports Media Day 2018

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan

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Dan Fisher is a Southern California guy, through and through. He is seemingly laid back, a lover of the outdoors and a rousing game of disc golf. He’s been around the world, everywhere from Hawaii to Spain to Belgium to Switzerland to Thailand and beyond.

But, for the foreseeable future, Pittsburgh is home.

Given a five-year contract extension this week, Pitt’s volleyball coach is leading a program that is, unquestioned, the school’s best athletic team at the moment. 

“On a personal level, it’s nice to be wanted,” Fisher said Wednesday at Pitt’s Fall sports media day. 

“I think, in modern college athletics, it’s becoming more and more important. It seems like the question comes up more and more from recruits, ‘what are your plans’ So it’s nice to be able to tell recruits that my plan is to be here.”

Coming off an ACC Championship season — the only for a Pitt program since joining the Conference in 2013 — Fisher’s Panthers are set to embark on a title defense this year. 

“There definitely is a lot of pride,” senior setter Kamalani Akeo said. “We can walk around with confidence, but that all stems from what we do everyday. 

“We really don’t take anything for granted. Every day there are new challenges. We expect them and, as a team, we really thrive on challenging ourselves.”

A big part of Pitt’s success is due to Fisher’s emphasis and love of non-volleyball activities. Pittsburgh reminds him of Portland, Oregon, his wife’s hometown. 

“I enjoy the diversity of the city, I enjoy all there is to do," he said. "I can still kind of be anonymous on weekends around here. And it’s a good outdoors town.”

On top of that, he has started a Pitt volleyball book club, which requires players to read a series of books that he feels will help with the psychological side of the sport. 

“The freshmen start out with ‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck and 'The Talent Code' by Daniel Coyle,” he said. “They’re kind of foundational for me.

“One of the freshman, this year, actually made the comment at our book club that ‘I feel like I’m instantaneously better by just reading these two books.” 

The reading is paying off. Pitt has a 118-45 overall record in five seasons under Fisher, making the NCAA tournament the last two yeare. Both seasons, however, have ended with losses to rival Penn State. 

Now Fisher has to balance the expectations that the program can do more with the reality of having a target on their backs every time the hit the court. 

“We have a group that knows they can do it, Fisher said. “There’s no guarantees in sports, right? But there is that belief that it’s possible that we maybe can take another step.”

Hear more from Dan Fisher, Kamalani Akeo and sophomore Kayla Lund below. 

Waldrum set for first season with Pitt women’s soccer

Pitt women’s soccer is under new leadership, with Randy Waldrum taking over the program in December after a decorated collegiate and professional coaching career. 

The Panthers are coming off a 3-12-3 season, going winless in ACC play, and have just two winning season since the program began in 1996. 

“We’re much more organized,” senior forward Taylor Pryce said. “We know what style we want to play and we know how we want to defend and how to transition from offense to defense. 

“That gives you a lot of confidence going into the season, having a collective idea and mission.”

Waldrum will be tasked with incorporating 13 new players into the program, taking up nearly half of the team’s roster. 

Pitt men’s soccer hoping to roll over marquee wins

Following a much-improved season in which it beat three ranked teams and downed rival West Virginia, 7-0, Pitt men’s soccer is looking for more. 

“The reason why I came here was the possibility to do something with this sport and to grow, be a part of the ACC and be competitive in a national limelight,” second-year head coach Jay Vidovich said.

The Panthers went from two wins in 2016 to eight wins in 2018, topping No. 21 Syracuse, No. 13 Columbia and No. 7 Notre Dame. 

“You could tell, just looking at the stands, how many people come when we won,” senior Javi Perez said. “People like to see winners.”

Cross-Country aiming higher 

The Pitt cross-country team is coming off 10th places finishes in the ACC Tournament a year ago. 

“A lot of us are trying to make it to the national level and get bids to the national championships,” said Peters Township native Nick Wolk.

The women’s team finished fifth at the NCAA mid-Atlantic Regional last year, the highest finish ever in program history. 

Pitt’s first meet will be the Duquesne Duals on September 2 at Schenley Park.