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Dittrich finds a home at Pitt

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Jasmine Dittrich SUBMITTED PHOTO

Jasmine Dittrich wanted to get it right this time.

No more site-unseen commitments.

Well, since arriving at the University of Pittsburgh in late June, following a campus visit in December, the former Rochester John Marshall athletic star is sure she got it right.

Dittrich has respect for her first collegiate home and the powerful volleyball program she was a part of at the University of Minnesota. But in the two years she spent in Minneapolis, the first one as a redshirt player and the second as simply a student, it never felt right to her.

It’s been another matter at Pittsburgh.

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"I really liked the city right away," Dittrich said. "And when I walked on the Pittsburgh campus I felt welcomed right way. I also liked the feeling I got from the coaches here. They seemed genuine, like they were looking out for my best interest."

Dittrich never allowed herself that initial review time at Minnesota, because she never took an official visit there. When the Gophers came offering a scholarship, she was blown away by it, and simply said yes.

That, she’s learned, is the wrong move.

"I jumped at the opportunity then," Dittrich said. "Now I know that there is a lot more to picking a school. The second time around, I did a lot better job of checking schools out. I was ready to ask the right questions."

One of those had to do with opportunity. At Minnesota, with its perennially top-10-in-the-country volleyball program, there was question about how much playing time Dittrich would get. At Pittsburgh, which was coming off a 13-18 season and had graduated a number of its players, opportunity seemed ripe.

It didn’t take long to discover how particularly ripe it was for Dittrich, who immediately wowed Pittsburgh coach Toby Rens during summer workouts with her athleticism and drive.

The 5-foot-10 Dittrich was one of the top sprinters in the state during her high school years. She can also leap and touch a rare 10-feet-7, which is handy when you’re playing middle hitter as she is. But even more than her athleticism, it was Dittrich’s tenacity that sold Rens. He was so impressed that he quickly named her a captain of this Panthers team.

Turns out she’s exactly the kind of person he’s looking for.

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"Jasmine has a fierce and fiery competitive spirit about her," Rens said. "She is very gifted athletically. But it is the competitor in her that is second to none. She embodies what I’ve always enjoyed about the sport. I’m incredibly thankful that she was interested in Pittsburgh and coming here."

Dittrich is part of a team that’s loaded with new parts. There are eight newcomers, including she and fellow transfer and roommate Brenea White. A native of Texas, White came over from the University of Mississippi.

All of that newness has made it easier for Dittrich to be comfortable with her captain’s role. On a team packed with freshmen, Dittrich is a relative veteran. And coming from such a winning program as Minnesota’s, which made it to the NCAA Final Four her redshirt freshman year there, Dittrich has a feel for what it takes to shape a successful program.

She’s doing her part, and doing it with a hunger bred partly from having taken last season off. After deciding not to stay with the Gophers volleyball program following that redshirt year, Dittrich simply went to classes last year at Minnesota as she determined her next move.

Now that’s she made it, she’s going about her volleyball playing with fervor.

"That year of not playing, it made me feel like a caged beast," Dittrich said. "I was just ready to unleash and to start working again."

So far, she’s unleashed nicely for a Panthers team that is off to a 10-4 start. Dittrich was so good in an early-September Pittsburgh Invitational, that she was named to its all-tournament team.

As well as she’s played, Dittrich is more excited about her team’s prospects than her own.

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"We’re still developing the character of our team, but things are within our grasp," she said. "We have extreme potential."

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