Joy Cao | Senior Staff Photographer
This column is part of a series. To read the column about football, click here. To read the column about basketball, click here.
Like much of the rest of the world, fútbol, not football, reigns supreme at Pitt, courtesy of two national championship-winning head coaches. For the men’s team, it’s Jay Vidovich, who led Wake Forest to the 2007 NCAA title. On the women’s side, it’s Randy Waldrum, whose resumé boasts two national championships with Notre Dame in 2004 and 2010.
Before Vidovich and Waldrum joined their respective teams, Pitt soccer toiled in mediocrity. The men’s team went 54 years between NCAA tournaments before finally making it back to the Big Dance in 2019, Vidovich’s fourth year with the team. The Panthers lost in the second round against No. 3 Georgetown, the eventual national champions.
The Panthers followed up on that campaign with a 7-1 fall 2020 season, which saw them ranked in the top four all season, and No. 1 for the final month.
What’s more, they did it without superstar senior forward Edward Kizza, who left the team in September for personal reasons. The New England Revolution drafted Kizza, who broke a number of school scoring records, in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft in January. The team didn’t miss a beat without its superstar player, which bodes well for its future success.
The Panthers ended up losing to No. 2 Clemson in the ACC Championship, but because COVID-19 altered the season, Pitt will have another chance at greatness this spring.
With six senior or graduate students, the men’s team remains firmly in win-now mode, and its fall campaign shows the Panthers have a real shot at doing so. But their top three scorers in the fall are first- and second-year players, so this year’s team is far from a flash in the pan.
The women’s team, on the other hand, just recorded its third winning record in 25 seasons during the fall 2020 campaign, going 9-5.
They’re a little behind the men’s trajectory, to be sure, but Waldrum has three seasons under his belt to Vidovich’s five. The women’s squad hasn’t reached the top, but the team has seen its highest ranking in program history under the new head coach.
With eight first-year athletes and only one senior, Waldrum’s squad is one of the youngest in the ACC, and players have a prime chance to show how they’ve grown in the altered spring season.
Moving forward, both teams sit in a fantastic position to compete — their youth, Waldrum and Vidovich’s backgrounds and the culture of success the teams have established in a short period of time all bode well for recruiting.
Both coaches have proved their ability to elevate teams to championship contention, and as the Panthers programs continue to mature, Pitt soccer’s reputation will continue to grow in the stacked ACC.
In a conference like the ACC, where football takes the back burner to non-revenue sports like lacrosse, soccer, track and field and cross country, staying competitive in those sports is almost second nature.
As the Panthers conclude their eighth year in the conference, it only makes sense that Pitt becomes a fútbol school.