Pitt routs Akron, 18-6, on frigid evening at Highmark Stadium


Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

Pitt defense Brittney Villhauer (25) battles for the ball with an Akron women’s lacrosse player Monday night.

By Stephen Thompson, Sports Editor

Pitt women’s lacrosse was fresh off a loss to the No. 2 team in the country and, after some competitive losses in conference play, eager to earn something other than a moral victory.

They did more than just that against Akron on Monday afternoon. The Panthers (6-6 overall, 0-5 ACC) earned their second-highest margin of victory of the season against visiting Akron (2-10 overall, 1-4 MAC). They won by a score of 18-6 in their final non-conference game of the season.

With another top-five opponent looming on the horizon, Pitt wanted to avenge last weekend’s loss to Boston College, according to junior attack Carlie Leach. She said her team felt more connected on Monday night and finally put together a full 60-minute performance.

“I think it was kind of a bit of revenge,” Leach said. “We know that we’re capable of more and capable of putting a full 60 minutes together. So it was really great to see that tonight.”

Amid frigid temperatures at Highmark Stadium, Pitt followed a simple formula. Defensive stops created fastbreak opportunities and the Panthers used their quickness advantage to find easy shots around the net.

They dominated possession in the early minutes and goals naturally followed. The Panthers found the back of the net twice within the game’s first two and a half minutes. They shot four times to no avail, before netting their first score at the 10:41 mark and second 53 seconds later.

Graduate attack Madisyn Kittell assisted on both goals and, after dicing up the Zips for 30 minutes, extended her team lead in assists from three over the next highest total to six. Against Akron, she and junior attack Leach tied for the team lead in assists with three apiece.

Kittell gets the glory of having filled the box score, but after the game, she credited her teammates with finding free space on their own.

“I think my team did a great job of working off the ball and getting open,” Kittell said. “And I think it’s mostly on them. Yeah I saw them, but they did a really good job working off ball.”

Pitt led 3-0 after one quarter and stretched its advantage in the second. The Panthers scored six times in the frame, primarily off of fast breaks. Pitt’s defenders stonewalled the Akron attack and won the battle for ground balls. Meanwhile, the midfield unit made transitions smooth and attackers closed out possessions with easy scores off effective passing and cutting.

At times, the Panthers simply ran past their opponents on offense and outmuscled them on defense, but that was by design, according to Leach. She said the Panthers wanted to run their fastbreaks often, something they haven’t practiced a lot.

“We just haven’t really worked on our fastbreak game and for the first time tonight, we were really able to do that,” Leach said. “We’ve been working on that in practice and seeing those different gaps where we could find the back of the net … And now I think we’ll keep doing it.”

In the second half, Akron shored up its defense and began to pressure Pitt on the other end. Instead of trying to match the Panthers’ speed, the Zips played deliberately. Their first goal came after they used up almost the entire 90-second shot clock and moved the ball to within close range. Akron also benefited from some sloppy Pitt fouls that gave first-year midfielder Noelle Boyd open looks at the net. She scored four of six Akron goals and gave the Panthers fits all evening.

Pitt women’s lacrosse players pose for a photo after their victory against Akron Monday night. (Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer)

Because the score ended up so lopsided, head coach Emily Boissonneault mixed in some of her reserves. As a result, a trio of Pitt first-years — Rachel Familetti, Devon Cavanaugh and Maeve Murray — each scored their first career goals. Leach said she was happy that they got to celebrate their teammates’ milestones during the win.

“It was so incredible to see so many of them have their first goal tonight,” Leach said. “Just being there to celebrate them was awesome. I think especially Devon and Rachel, I was really proud of them tonight. They were able to find the back of the net and looked so confident and composed doing it.”

The Panthers will be back in action on Saturday at noon, when they take on No. 4 Syracuse.