Women’s soccer stays spotless after Sunday shellacking of NJIT

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Joy Cao | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt women’s soccer extended its four-game win streak with a 5-0 shutout over the New Jersey Institute of Technology on a hot Sunday afternoon.

By Alexander Ganias, Staff Writer

Pitt women’s soccer extended its four-game win streak with a 5-0 shutout over the New Jersey Institute of Technology on a hot Sunday afternoon.

The Panthers came into this match having won their first three games, the last of which was another five-nil victory over Cleveland State at home. Sophomore forward Amanda West and first-year striker Sarah Schupansky spearheaded an offense that averages four goals per game

NJIT, on the other hand, lost each of their first three games. To make things worse, the Highlanders have not scored once in those three games.

The Panthers started the match slow, but unlike against Cleveland State, they played a tighter game. NJIT’s defense held strong through the first 15 minutes, but their offense did little to relieve the pressure.

That pressure finally broke in the 17th minute, when West crossed the ball from one end of the 6-yard box to first-year midfielder Ellie Coffield on the opposite end. Molly Saylor, the Highlander redshirt junior keeper, played the ball too far and couldn’t catch up to the pass which Coffield redirected easily into the back of the net. The Panthers had an early 1-0 lead.

With two goals, two assists and three starts through her first four games, Coffield emerged as a key part of the Panther offense.

“I’m just happy to play a part coming in as a freshman,” she said. “This team has big goals and I’m happy to do anything I can to make it happen.”

Pitt kept pressuring the Highlanders for the next 10 minutes, but their defense was holding strong. Saylor made some key saves and deflections to keep the deficit small. 

The visitors had a great scoring chance in the 27th minute — the ball swung into the box right where NJIT sophomore forward Briana Ramirez was waiting. But Pitt sophomore defender Athalie Palomo was also waiting, and both her and Ramirez jumped to meet the incoming cross. Ramirez tried to gain an advantage by boxing out her defender in midair, but in doing so she guided Palomo into the post. Palomo hit her knee on the side of the goal and stayed down for several minutes.

While the Panther coaching staff and trainers were attending to Palomo, the referee showed Ramirez the red card and sent her off the pitch. The Highlanders played with 10 players for the rest of the match.

Head coach Randy Waldrum shared updates on his defender’s status, which thankfully didn’t involve any concussions.

“She could’ve come back into the game, she just took a back knock to her knee,” Waldrum said. “But with how the game was going, there wasn’t really any reason to put her back in, so we let her rest up.”

Pitt had several chances after Palomo’s injury, but it couldn’t break through NJIT’s defense. First-year midfielder Chloe Minas had a chance from over 30 yards out, but it just sailed over the bar.

Sophomore midfielder Anna Bout broke through their defense in the 40th minute. Collecting a perfectly placed pass from sophomore forward Leah Pais, Bout crossed over to her right foot and barely put it past the line at the far post for Pitt’s second goal of the match. Junior midfielder Celia Lopez had a chance to give the Panthers another goal with a 44th minute penalty kick, but she sent the attempt over the bar. The half ended with the home team leading 2-0.

Waldrum noticed the improvement from the start against Cleveland State to the start against NJIT.

“I think yesterday we had to train to not be casual or lackadaisical, and let them know that this could very well be a trap game,” he said. “It didn’t work out that way, things changed, but we did come out more focused today.”

At this point, NJIT had been held scoreless for seven straight halves. The Highlanders showed that by coming out in the second half, pressuring the Pitt defense and playing physical. NJIT ended up with 10 fouls in the game to the Panthers’ four. Surprisingly, no one fouled Amanda West in the 56th minute, when she ran over 50 yards and wound up from just inside the 18-yard box. The ensuing shot went bar down and past the goal line for the third Panther goal.

The Panthers struck again in the 62nd minute, when Pais found sophomore forward Landy Mertz on a well-executed give-and-go that Mertz initiated. Saylor could only watch as Pitt’s fourth goal bounced past her. The referees stopped play in the 70th minute for a hydration break, which Coffield said helped her team to perform well, despite the blistering heat.

“I can tell you, last weekend [in Oklahoma] certainly helped us get used to it,” Coffield said. “But we know that whatever we’re feeling, the other team is feeling the same, so that helps too.”

Sophomore midfielder Krystina Rytel scored the fifth and final goal for the Panthers in the 81st minute. From about 26 yards out, she placed a free kick just over the head of Saylor — who finished with an impressive nine saves — off the crossbar and in. The final horn sounded nine minutes later with the Panthers taking their second straight 5-0 victory, and their fourth straight victory in total.

Waldrum explained how the Panthers can still improve, even after scoring 10 goals in two games.

“It’s great to get these shutouts, but we play too many good teams [this year],” he said. “I think the key is to minimize mistakes and stay organized.”

The Panthers travel across the state to play St. Joseph’s University on Friday. Their next matchup is against No. 6 TCU at home next Sunday. Fans can watch Thursday’s game on ESPN+ and the TCU game on ACC Network Extra. 

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