Fighting Irish knock out Panthers, 5-0

First-year forward Edward Kizza took Pitt’s first shot on goal in the Panthers’ 5-0 loss to Notre Dame Wednesday night. (Photo by Sarah Cutshall | Staff Photographer)

The Pitt men’s soccer team might have defeated Notre Dame in the team’s first meeting of the season, but the Irish came prepared to fight for an ACC Tournament first-round win.

Notre Dame (10-5-2 overall, 4-3-2 ACC) defeated the Panthers (8-10 overall, 2-7 ACC) 5-0 Wednesday, Nov. 1 — ultimately ending Pitt’s season.

The Panthers’ starting lineup was noticeably void of some key players, namely junior midfielder Javi Perez, senior defender Pol Planellas and captain redshirt senior defender Bryce Cregan. All three were out with injuries.

The Irish outshot the Panthers 22-12 for the game, with senior forwards Jeff Farina and Jon Gallagher tallying four shots each. The Irish also had 10 shots on goal to the Panthers’ three. Pitt also recorded 15 fouls to Notre Dame’s two.

It didn’t take long for the Irish to get started, and Farina got the first chance. He hit a shot in the box that bounced off the side of the post into Pitt’s redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Mikal Outcalt’s hands.

Outcalt tried to clear the ball for the Panthers, but Gallagher blocked the attempt with his body. The ball hit his shoulder hard enough to send the ball into the goal and give Notre Dame the lead, 1-0, within two minutes of play.

The Irish took two more shots before the Panthers recorded one. First-year forward Edward Kizza took the first shot, but drilled the ball over the net.

Notre Dame wasn’t thrown off by the attempt and retaliated with a score less than a minute later. This time junior defender Sean Dedrick ran down the side of the field and delivered a pass to senior midfielder Blake Townes. Townes then broke free from senior Pitt defender Matt Bischoff and hit the ball into the net, increasing Notre Dame’s lead to 2-0.

The Fighting Irish weren’t satisfied with the margin they had created. With a series of four shots, the Notre Dame offense tried to push further into the lead. Kizza tried again to decrease the deficit, but again he fell short.

Notre Dame junior defender Felicien Dumas then took advantage of a foul on Pitt in the 38th minute. Setting himself up at the free kick, Dumas bent the ball into the right post, sending it sailing past diving Outcalt to give Notre Dame a 3-0 lead.

Pitt sophomore forward Josh Coan tried to avenge Pitt’s deficit, but graduate senior goalkeeper Chris Hubbard blocked his shot. He tried again, but a foul on the Panthers stopped the play before he could have any success.

The Panthers stepped up their physical play in the final five minutes of the first half. They committed three more fouls before the half ended with the Irish holding onto their 3-0 lead.

Pitt ended the first half with three shots to Notre Dame’s 12 and zero corners to the Irish’s six.

Gallagher opened the second half with two shots in less than three minutes. Outcalt saved both attempts and prevented Notre Dame from advancing its score. Dedrick followed with a cross in the box, which Outcalt swatted away.

After the save, though, Outcalt hit the ball right to Farina. He took advantage of the inadvertent assist and scored Notre Dame’s fourth goal of the game in the fourth minute of the second half.

First-year forward Alexander Dexter answered with the Panthers’ best shot of the game. He set the team up for a penalty kick after his shot was deflected by the hands of an Irish defender.

First-year forward Alexander Dexter set the team up for a penalty kick after a Notre Dame defender deflected the shot. (Photo by John Hamilton | Managing Editor)

First-year forward Colin Brezniak took the kick, but Hubbard denied the shot. Brezniak took a chance on the rebound, but his shot sailed high over the net and held the Panthers scoreless. Three more Panthers followed with shots, but just as with their predecessors, nothing changed the score.

After a Pittsburgh foul, Dumas took a corner kick for Notre Dame. He crossed the ball into Farina, who scored again, making the score 5-0. This also marked Dumas’ eighth goal of the season.

Pitt head coach Jay Vidovich decided to switch out the goalkeeper in the 64th minute of the game. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Jacob Rooth replaced Outcalt, marking Rooth’s second appearance of the season.

The Irish still weren’t content with their 5-0 lead and answered two Pitt fouls with two more shots. Rooth was able to block one, but didn’t have to do much when the second shot went wide.

There were more substitutions in the final 20 minutes than there were shots. Notre Dame followed Pitt’s lead and replaced its goalkeeper. Junior goalkeeper Ryan Krutz finished out the remaining 10 minutes of the game.

As Pitt’s final three shots missed the mark with two going wide and one going high, the clock ran out. Notre Dame blew Pitt out of the water and out of the ACC Tournament with a 5-0 defeat.

This loss marked the final game of the Panthers’ record-breaking 2017 season. They recorded their first ACC conference win, their first win against a ranked opponent since 2008 and their first win against a top 10 ranked opponent since 2000 all in this season.

The Fighting Irish will continue in the ACC Tournament Nov. 5 with a 1 p.m. game against No. 2 North Carolina.

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