Soccer: Cuba breaks all-time record

By Jon Anzur

Ashley Cuba only needed one goal to tie the all-time goals record at Pitt for women’s soccer…. Ashley Cuba only needed one goal to tie the all-time goals record at Pitt for women’s soccer. Instead, she scored three.

Cuba erupted for the hat-trick on Sunday, pacing the Panthers (2-10-4, 1-5-2) to a 6-1 victory over St. John’s (8-6-1, 4-3) and their first win on Ambrose Urbanic Field, their new home this season.

Cuba finished senior Katie Ruhe’s through-ball to put the Panthers in front 1-0 in the eighth minute. Her second goal of the game — and 19th of her storied career — came in the 29th minute and placed Cuba ahead of Ashley Habbel as Pitt’s all-time goals leader. Cuba added to her newly achieved record in the 82nd minute, putting the Panthers up 4-0 and effectively sealing the game in their favor.

“I’m really happy for her breaking the record today,” head coach Sue-Moy Chin said in a press release. “I think she’s going to smash the record with having the rest of this season and another season to do it.”

Indeed, it was only a matter of time before Cuba moved into the top spot in the record book. Out of high-school, the star forward was an ESPN All-America selection in 2009. Cuba was even nominated for the Gatorade Player of the Year award in 2008 for women’s soccer.

Nevertheless, the relief of finally burying the historic goal was as strong as the satisfaction of claiming the school’s scoring title, Cuba said.

“I think having the pressure to get those last two [goals] to break it was on my shoulders, and it’s just a huge weight lifted off now,” she said.

Cuba credited the achievement to her high standards and relentless urge to succeed, along with the support from her teammates and coaches. Her winning traits were evident from the day she arrived in Oakland nearly three years ago.

Cuba graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio, months before the rest of her class and enrolled at Pitt in 2009, right in time for spring training.

During her freshman season, Cuba scored seven goals — tying her for third most in a single season in school history — and became the third women’s soccer player at Pitt ever to earn Big East All-Rookie Team honors. She started the following season by tying the team’s single-game goal record with a hat-trick against Buffalo.

But on Sunday, Cuba earned her most impressive distinction yet.

“It’s an honor, it really is,” Cuba said. “Looking back and being able to say that I got [the goal-scoring record] is awesome.”

Ruhe, who played for Pitt when Habbel broke the scoring record in 2009, said that although both moments were “exciting,” the record-breaking performance on Sunday means more for her and her struggling team.

“I only got to play two years with Ashley Habbel; this will be my fourth year with Cuba,” Ruhe said. “I think I definitely helped her out a little bit more, just because I’ve had more time with her. As long as she keeps scoring, I’ll be happy. As a team, we need her to keep scoring.”

Cuba said that, going forward, her focus will be strictly on helping her team qualify for the Big East tournament.

“Making the tournament was always the most important thing; the individual goals were more of a bonus,” Cuba said. “I knew that they’d come, slowly but surely.”

Sunday’s victory brings Pitt within six points of the final playoff spot, currently held by UConn — the Panthers’ next opponent. After the match with the Huskies on Friday, Pitt will travel to Providence before concluding the regular season at home against first-place West Virginia. Cuba said that her team must win out to have a shot, however remote, at making the tournament.

If Sunday’s throttling of St. John’s is any indication, Pitt is moving in the right direction.

The Panthers outshot the visiting Red Storm 21-14 on Sunday. After Cuba’s record-breaking goal, sophomore Dana DelleFemine scored her first goal of the season to put the Panthers up 3-0 in the 53rd minute. She added her second goal in the 85th minute — less than two minutes after freshman Madison Gritsch scored her second goal of the season — to make the score 6-0: the highest goal total Pitt has scored since 1998, and the highest-ever under Chin.

“That’s something we addressed during training this week,” Chin said on the team’s website. “We talked about why goals weren’t being scored, which was not enough shooting, inaccurate shooting, or the shots are too late because they are trying to get a perfect shot.”

The Panthers defense, which had been surrendering an average of 2.6 goals per game heading into Sunday’s match, held St. John’s scoreless until Chelsey Martino’s goal with 30 seconds remaining. Pitt goalkeeper Kristina Rioux made four saves on the day, increasing her Big East-leading season total to 88.

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