Women’s soccer pick up third straight win off second half push

First-year+midfielder+Emily+Yaple+%2810%29+celebrates+the+first+goal+of+her+Pitt+career+during+Thursday+evening%27s+2-0+victory+over+Syracuse.

Thomas Yang | Senior Staff Photographer

First-year midfielder Emily Yaple (10) celebrates the first goal of her Pitt career during Thursday evening’s 2-0 victory over Syracuse.

By Alexander Ganias, For The Pitt News

The Pitt Panthers defeated the Syracuse Orange in their home and ACC opener on a chilly Thursday night at Ambrose Urbanic Field. 

Although Syracuse played their first game of the season, Pitt came off of a two-game sweep of Appalachian State, where they outscored the Mountaineers 11-1.

In a season affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Pitt played their home opener in front of an empty stadium. The stadium echoed throughout the match with the sounds of artificial crowd noise and both teams constantly communicating on the pitch. Pitt head coach Randy Waldrum didn’t seem too affected by it.  

“After the first few minutes … I didn’t really notice it,” Waldrum said.

Before the match began, both teams participated in demonstrations of unity in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests around the globe. Pitt players faced the flag during the national anthem and put their hands on each other’s shoulders. Syracuse players all took a knee while locked in arms. Additionally, before the initial kick off, all players, staff and referees got down on their knees. After about 15 seconds, the ref blew his whistle and the match went underway.

The Panthers controlled the first half offensively, with 14 shots compared to Syracuse’s three. They kept the ball in the Orange’s end for a majority of the half, and they kept the opposition out of their end of the field, forcing many turnovers and goal kicks. 

‘Cuse came out strong defensively as well — only two of Pitt’s 14 shots were on goal. Syracuse keeper Lysianne Proulx parried one of those shots — off the boot of first-year midfielder Chloe Minas — over the bar in the 30th minute. That was Pitt’s best chance of the half — Syracuse defenders blocked the rest of their shots or they sailed past the goal.

Syracuse had a chance to score the first goal of the game in the second half. First-year defender Lindsey Brick’s shot in the penalty box bounced off the crossbar in the 53rd minute. The ball rebounded down on the goal line, but not past it. The score remained tied.

Pitt finally broke through just four minutes later. After a shot off the post, first-year midfielder Emily Yaple cleaned up the rebound and put it past the keeper for the Panther’s first goal — what would wind up being the game-winning — to put the Panthers ahead 1-0. Sophomore forward Amanda West picked up the assist after her shot hit the post, and she was thrilled for her teammate’s first career score.

“I was so happy for her, to get her first goal,” West said. “She deserves it.”

The second tally came after West got tripped in the penalty box after dribbling past defenders in the 76th minute. The referee called a penalty shot, and West did not waste it. She went to her right and buried the putaway goal. West said the team had felt that they became complacent after the first score.

“We needed to raise the level and put another one in the back of the net,” West said, “so we could solidify the win.”

The score became 2-0 Panthers, and that’s how it would remain. The Panthers won their third straight match and their first ACC opener since 2015. They bested the Orange in shots 27-4, and shots on goal 12-1.

Two players had to leave the game for some time — West exited because of a cramp, and Minas left because of an injured ankle. Fortunately for the Panthers, both players returned to play the rest of the game.

This is Pitt’s only home game in their first eight matches — they will go back on the road for their next five games. Waldrum emphasized the importance of winning on their own turf.

“You always want to win at home,” Waldrum said. “I think the road games are a little bit more difficult because of the travel that’s involved … that can be a tough stretch.”

The Panthers will start that road trip on Sunday with a visit to Annapolis, Maryland, to take on the Naval Academy Midshipmen.

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