David Borne | Sports Editor
Sept. 5, 2019
Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh will co-host the ChampYinz Volleyball Invitational this weekend. Matches begin on Friday at PPG Paints Arena before the action moves to Pitt’s Fitzgerald Field House on Saturday.
Green Bay and Ohio State will join the Dukes and Panthers as the invitational’s participants. The tournament serves as a precursor to the 2019 Division I NCAA Volleyball Championship, which will be hosted by Duquesne, SportsPITTSBURGH and PPG Paints Arena in December.
Duquesne will take on Green Bay at PPG Paints Arena at 5:30 p.m. on Friday to get tournament play started. The match will be the first-ever volleyball game played at the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pitt and Ohio State will follow, with a match at 8:30 p.m.
The Red & Blue will wrap up the event on Saturday, with games against Ohio State and Pitt.
“It’s going to be great for us,” said Duquesne Head Coach Steve Opperman. “The four teams will be the first four to ever play a volleyball match in [PPG Paints Arena]. It’s kind of a cool thing and it’s just a preface to the National Championship.”
Opperman explained that the organization of the tournament was a long process. Duquesne placed bid to host the event, and several players along with members of the coaching staff sent videos to the NCAA committee in an effort to bring the competitions to the Steel City.
With Friday’s match in a much larger facility than what his team is used to, Opperman noted that the opportunity is definitely exciting. While the hype is certainly there, he wants his team to treat it as any other match.
“We’re excited. We’re not letting our players get too excited until Friday,” the head coach said. “We’re trying to keep them grounded.”
Liz Wayne, one of three seniors on Duquesne’s roster, echoed Opperman’s words on the invitational. The middle hitter is thrilled to play on such a big stage, but is more so looking forward to playing against top notch opponents that will prepare the team for the rest of the season.
“We’re looking forward to playing in such a big arena,” Wayne said. “Especially against some really good teams throughout the weekend. I think we’re going to take it as a good opportunity to get better and grow throughout the preseason. Hopefully the same energy will carry over to conference play.”
Green Bay, Duquesne’s first opponent in the tournament, has seen quite a good amount of recent success. The Phoenix are the reigning Horizon League champions, and is off to a dominant start in 2019.
Crosstown rival Pittsburgh is slated to be one of the nation’s top programs again this season, and Ohio State is a well-respected program as well.
“By doing what we’re doing, I think it puts us in a good position to see where we are this early,” Opperman said. “Green Bay comes in as the defending Horizon League champs and opened up the season last week 4-0.”
“Ohio State is always a great team, and my alma mater as well. It’ll be cool to play against my alma mater. Pitt now is the No. 10 team in the country. [Pitt Head Coach] Dan Fisher is doing a great job with their program there. We’re looking forward to the challenges that each program presents us.”
The competition will be tough, and the lights will shine bright, but Wayne feels as if her team is ready for success in the tournament.
“Our coaches and stave have given us all the tools that we need, and things we need to work on, for strong teams,” Wayne said. “Mentally, we’ve been preparing to be more aggressive and assertive on the court. I think that’s something we can carry into this weekend.”