After going undefeated through its first five games, the Pitt women’s soccer team dropped its first game of the season Sunday afternoon at Ambrose Urbanic Field, losing 1-0 to the Illinois State Redbirds.
The two teams got roughly the same amount of shots on the day, with the Redbirds (2-3-1) outshooting the Panthers 12-10. But while the shots were even, the Panthers (3-1-2) were much less accurate, only managing to put three on target compared to the Redbirds’ nine.
“I think that we got outworked by the other team,” senior midfielder Emma Pozzulo said. “They wanted it a lot more than us. We didn’t stick to our gameplay and that really showed.”
Redshirt freshman goalie Katelyn McEachern kept the Panthers close, making seven saves. Her effort wasn’t enough though, as a 44th minute goal by Redbirds freshman Sarah Lafayette was enough to propel her team to victory.
Pitt started the first half aggressively, with its first shot coming three minutes into the game — a header which sailed high over the goal. From there, the two teams played mostly even over the next 20 minutes, each registering several shots.
Most of the action occurred toward the center of the field, though, as both teams were held back offensively by a plethora of mistakes. Most times the Panthers had an opportunity, turnover or miscue halted the push.
As the half wore on, though, the Redbirds started to take over and put more pressure on the Panthers’ back line. Getting close to halftime, Pitt Head Coach Greg Miller thought his team had lost the momentum they had early on.
“I thought we had a good start the first 15 or 20 minutes,” Miller said. “I thought we were okay at creating some chances and probably should have been up a goal. Then as the half went on, as we gave them a little bit more time and space, they won some balls and got some energy…”
In the last few minutes of the half, the Redbirds made one final push looking to take a lead at the break. After a series of passes outside the penalty box, the ball came to Lafayette, who blasted a shot past McEachern and into the net to put her team up 1-0.
Coming out for the second half, the Panthers had a renewed energy and pushed to tie the game. They registered the first three shots of the half, but only one found its way on target — a 52nd minute strike by junior forward Sarah Krause. Redbirds sophomore goalie Haley Smith was there to make the save, though, one of three she had on the game.
But again, the Panthers’ attack wore down as the half went on, starting when McEachern received a yellow card for a slide tackle just outside the penalty box. As the clock ticked past the 70th minute, Illinois State had its best offensive surge of the half, keeping the ball in Pitt’s end for several minutes.
They registered three shots in as many minutes, but McEachern and the defense were able to stave off the attack and keep the score at 1-0.
Coming down the stretch, the Panthers tried to push forward in hopes of tying the game. In the 80th minute, Krause broke open in the attacking third and fired a shot on goal. Again, Smith made the save, preserving the lead.
Ultimately, the Redbirds were able to hold off the Panthers, collecting their second win of the season. The performance was a letdown for Miller and Pitt, who had hoped to carry their early momentum into their upcoming matchups against tougher competition.
“We got outworked today by a team that’s gritty, and they just wanted it [more than] we did today,” Miller said. “They played Friday night, and we played Wednesday, so credit to them.”
Next up for the Panthers is a road trip to Ohio on Thursday. The team will take on the Kent State Golden Flashes at 7 p.m., looking to improve and avenge their 2-1 loss last season.
“It’s disappointing, but I know our team is going to respond and come back out twice as hard against Kent State on Thursday,” Pozzulo said. “I think we need to stick to our game plan and, if we do that, we’ll be fine against Kent.”