Created on Thursday, 20 December 2012 00:44 Written by Andrew Stern / Staff Writer
When the Pitt men’s soccer team’s season unraveled, it did so in more ways than one.
On the field, the Panthers began the season undefeated through their first eight games (6-0-2). But the team hasn’t won or tied a game since the end of that streak. Following its strong start, the team struggled mightily in conference play and did not make it to the postseason. The team was 0-8-0 in the Big East, and suffered many lopsided losses.
Toward the end of the season, the situation wasn’t much better off the field, either, and on the heels of the disappointing season, co-captain Alex Harrison, starting goalie Lee Johnston and reserve player Daniel Mark have all decided to the leave Pitt and the men’s soccer team, according to head coach Joe Luxbacher.
Harrison and Johnston are no longer listed on the team’s roster on the Pitt athletics website, while Mark still is.
Luxbacher attributed some part of the team’s struggles down the stretch to injuries.
“Both [redshirt junior defender] Alex [Fischetti] and Alex [Harrison] got injured, and when you’re playing top-quality teams like Georgetown, who went to the national championship game, or UConn, you need to have your top players healthy,” he said.
Harrison, Johnston and Mark were not immediately available for comment.
Harrison, a 6-foot-2 junior, showed inconsistency on the field this season largely due to a broken nose for which he had to wear a clear protective mask on his face during play. He started the first three games of the year but missed the next three due to that setback.
Luxbacher felt that the injury Harrison had to deal with this year kept him from developing any real sort of consistency on the field.
“I don’t really blame him,” Luxbacher said. “He was injured … He really struggled with playing in the mask, and as a result, he had a tough year.”
Harrison was already lamenting his injury issues at the beginning of September — right before the time when his nose was broken.
“These injuries are killing!! most important year of my career..this cnt keep happening [sic],” he said on Twitter.
Harrison returned later in the season and even tallied two goals, but his happiness seemed short lived.
On Oct. 25, right before the final matchup of the season against Villanova, the U.K. native took to Twitter to show his disgust for the way the year had played out, calling out his teammates and the coaching staff in a series of tweets.
“You think its news to me that we havent won a game since I got back in the line up? I have been saying this for weeks [sic],” he said.
Then he followed up with, “The hardest thing to deal with is inconsistency. when everything is good sum ppl r great but when things go bad the negative side comes out [sic].”
He appeared in all of the team’s 11 games after the injury and would start 12 of the 14 games he played in during the season.
Harrison announced on Twitter recently that he would be transferring to Ohio State for his last year of eligibility. He’ll sit out next season due to transfer rules.
On Dec. 14, he tweeted, “Made a massive decision last night! I cant wait for next fall #buckeyenation [sic].”
Johnston is also reportedly planning to transfer from Pitt. The sophomore Florida native was having an impressive season through the Panthers’ first eight games, allowing just .875 goals per contest with a total of 7.
However, the 6-foot-3 goalie struggled during the last few games and was pulled in the second half of the team’s 7-1 loss to Notre Dame on Oct. 3. Following the Notre Dame loss, the sophomore only played in two of the Panthers final five games.
The final player reportedly planning a transfer is redshirt sophomore Mark. He was a midfielder for the Panthers who has played in seven games in the last two years.
Mark suffered an injury in the team’s fifth match, his first appearance this year, and did not play the rest of the season.
Luxbacher didn’t have any definitive plans for who would take over the open positions, but he said he expects either Fischetti, Emilio Cordero — a redshirt freshman from Puerto Rico — or an incoming player to take over for Harrison. The other center back spot seems to be up for grabs and might not be decided until camp next season.
“Emilio is a guy we are looking at. We’re also looking at recruits as well to fill those spots,” he said.
Luxbacher said that despite the trio’s departure, there’s no animosity on his end.
“I wish Alex, Lee and Dan nothing but the best. There are no hard feelings,” he said.