Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor
Pitt men’s soccer won the biggest ACC game in program history, defeating North Carolina State 2-1 in overtime in the ACC tournament quarterfinals in front of a packed crowd at Ambrose Urbanic Field.
It was the first time the Panthers (9-6-2 overall, 5-3-1 ACC) hosted an ACC Tournament game in school history. The win also means that for the first time the Panthers will advance to the ACC semifinals, making up for last season’s devastating loss to Duke in the ACC quarterfinals.
And after last year’s heartbreak, junior forward Edward Kizza wasted no time attacking for the Panthers. In the fourth minute he recorded his first shot on goal, but it was blocked and bounced off Kizza for a goal kick.
The next chance Kizza got, he didn’t miss. He recorded his first score in the 13th minute to put Pitt up 1-0. The goal was initiated when midfielders sophomore Jackson Walti and first-year Veljko Petkovic dispossessed NC State senior forward Gabriel Machado in the midfield. Petkovic then ran into open space and passed it to junior forward Alexander Dexter on the left side, who delivered a ground pass to Kizza for the easy goal.
Dexter again threatened to score in the 21st minute, taking on a pass from senior midfielder Braden Kline and dribbling around junior defender Jamie Smith — but his shot went wide right for a goal kick.
Kizza got yet another golden chance to double the Panthers’ lead in the 33rd minute on a cross from Kline and made a scissor kick shot that redshirt senior goalkeeper Vincent Durand managed to deflect with his gloves. The shot then went up, hit under the crossbar and almost went over the line for a goal. The call even went to Video Assistant Referee, but was deemed no good.
Nevertheless, Pitt continued to force the issue. Petkovic delivered a dangerous cross in the 38th minute that forced first-year defender Kendall Edwards to make a body stop with his feet in the air. His last-second deflection allowed Durand to jump onto the ball and secure possession.
Pitt’s forwards dominated possession in the first half, holding NC State to zero shots with limited opportunities to score, while the Panthers recorded five shots on goal as part of a trio of scoring chances and one goal enroute to a 1-0 lead at halftime.
The Panthers continued to create clear shots at the net, beginning in the 46th minute. Petkovic created the possession by giving a nice ground pass to Dexter who took a touch and then shot on goal. The shot was weak and easily stopped by Durand, but Kizza came up with an immediate steal and shot — forcing Durand to make another save.
The Wolfpack then took control of the game with their dominance of possession and offensive pressure. Panthers’ head coach Jay Vidovich said he will need to analyze how they changed the complexion of the game so quickly, but added that his team caused many of the mistakes that allowed NC State to get back into it.
“I think a lot of it was self-inflicted,” Vidovich said. “Tournament play is do or die. Single elimination and when you’re behind, you have nothing to lose. You just push, and they pushed.”
The Wolfpack’s first offensive chance of the game came from senior forward Tyler Gabara, who turned and shot on goal in the 51st minute, but redshirt junior goalkeeper Arie Ammann made a diving save to preserve the slim margin. That lead wouldn’t last much longer.
NC State leveled the score at one in the 54th minute. Gabarra fired on the Pitt goal after receiving a headed pass from sophomore forward Kuda Muskwe. His shot went right into the face of first-year defender Arturo Ordonez, who blocked it. But the rebound fell right to junior midfielder George Asomani, who tapped it into the right-hand corner from outside the box.
Sophomore defender Dyk Sessock got Pitt back into an attack-minded play in the 85th minute as he tried to cross the ball in NC State territory, but ended up causing Durand to tap the ball away for a corner.
Despite a myriad of shots, crosses and chances, the score remained tied at one at the end of regulation.
With its historic season on the line, Pitt scored the winning goal in the 94th minute to send it onto the semifinal round of the ACC tournament. Petkovic, Dexter and Kizza connected again on the decisive final goal. Petkovic found Dexter on the left side of the box, from where Dexter passed the ball right in front of goal to Kizza, giving him an easy tap in past Durand for his second goal.
Pitt moves on to a date this Wednesday with top-seeded Clemson in South Carolina. The Tigers finished the regular season as the No. 1 team in the ACC and beat Notre Dame 3-0 in their quarterfinal matchup to progress. Pitt has yet to face Clemson this season and is staring down an uphill battle on the road to the ACC championship game.
“Big game,” Vidovich said. “Another big game. An opportunity to play in the semifinals in the best conference in America. So excited for the guys and what they’re doing.”
Kickoff from Clemson is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.