Tributes to fallen highlight fall season

As the vibrant October foliage hangs around into November, the World Series champions have been crowned, the clocks have been turned back, and fall sports kick into playoff mode.

While Friday night lights still shine on the high school football postseason, the Penn State women’s soccer team is set for an important end-of-the-week matchup of their own.

The nationally ranked Nittany Lions have earned a 24th-straight NCAA playoff berth after just missing out on the Big Ten tournament title over the weekend. The Lions fell to underdog Minnesota on penalty kicks, but Penn State still holds regular-season bragging rights after capturing the program’s 19th conference title outright.

Across campus, the women’s volleyball team wrapped up October like many teams across many different sports throughout the region — by hosting a “Dig Pink” game to raise funds and awareness as part of breast cancer awareness month.

But following that charitable outing, Penn State uncharacteristically dropped back-to-back Big Ten losses to Purdue and then Nebraska, before rebounding against Iowa. Regardless of a few stumbles along the way, Russ Rose’s team can never be counted out of the NCAA conversation.

Across the state, Pittsburgh’s women’s volleyball team is enjoying one of its best seasons in program history: undefeated at home and 13-1 in the ACC, their only loss of the year came at Duke last month.

The Panthers rose to a program-best No. 5 national ranking during a 23-match win streak, and along the way set a home attendance record during a win over also-ranked and then-unbeaten Louisville at Fitzgerald Field House.

Pitt women’s volleyball is capturing the attention and imagination of Panther nation, as they look to avenge the loss to the Blue Devils this Sunday, with even more in store as the month of November rolls on.

The Panthers will add to their list of program firsts and accomplishments this season with their inaugural “Party at the Pete” — a Nov. 21st match at Petersen Events Center. The evening will include a food drive, special invitations to WPIAL high school teams, and of course, a marquee matchup with Georgia Tech. A win on Thanksgiving eve at the Pete would be one more exciting milestone for Dan Fisher’s program en route to what they hope will be a chance to make even more noise in the NCAA tournament.

And thank you to the University of Pittsburgh athletic teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and many others, wearing a tribute to the Tree of Life Synagogue as well as the Squirrel Hill community.

The Steel City, like so many places around the country that have dealt with unimaginable violence, is revealing its strength and solidarity with the theme “Stronger Than Hate.” As sports provide a platform for so many messages, this is one that should be taken to heart.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org.