Panthers continue historic start, knock off Miami 3-1 at home


Hannah Wilson | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt’s sophomore midfielder Bri Hilsenteger (14) prepares to bump the ball during Thursday’s game against Miami at Ambrose Urbanic Field.

By Alexander Ganias, Staff Writer

Pitt women’s soccer (9-1, 2-0 ACC) hosted Miami (3-3-2, 0-2 ACC) for its first conference home game of the season. The Panthers bounced back after conceding a goal in the first half and defeated the Hurricanes 3-1.

The Panthers started strong, creating several chances in the first half, the best one coming from junior midfielder Emily Yaple in the fifth minute. She wound up from 30 yards out and shot towards the net, but Miami senior goalkeeper Melissa Dagenais made the save. She also stopped multiple Pitt shots on the resulting corner kick, keeping the game scoreless.

Dagenais was the best player on the pitch for the ‘Canes, and the Panthers couldn’t break through. Sophomore forward Sarah Schupansky had several chances throughout the half, but her crosses were either swallowed up by Dagenais, or whistled offsides. Miami also had some moments of offensive pressure in the first half, but they didn’t register a shot until the 23rd minute, when graduate student forward Chloe O’Neill sent one wide of the net. 

O’Neill would have another chance at a goal in the 27th minute, but it was far from conventional. As Pitt goalkeeper Caitlyn Lazzarini attempted to clear the ball from her own 18-yard box, O’Neill contorted her body to try and block the clearance. It worked, and the ball deflected off of her and into the net. 

Pitt’s sophomore forward Sarah Schupansky (5) runs with the ball during Thursday’s game against Miami at Ambrose Urbanic Field. (Hannah Wilson | Senior Staff Photographer )

Pitt first-year defender Kaite Zailski didn’t like how Miami got its first goal, but the Panthers found themselves down 1-0 nonetheless.

“That goal lit a fire under us,” Zailski said. “We knew that they didn’t earn that goal, we gave it away. We had to get it back.”

Schupansky and senior forward Leah Pais had shots on goal in the five minutes for the Panthers after the Miami goal, but nothing crossed the goal line. Not even sophomore defender Hallie Salas could finish in the 45th minute with an open net, as she lost her footing and shanked an easy opportunity. Pitt outshot Miami 8-5 with a 6-1 advantage in shots on goal. But the score favored Miami when the halftime whistle sounded.

Zailski explained that the Panther’s performance was lackadaisical, and that the team expected more out of themselves in the second half. 

“We knew in our minds that we couldn’t waste our last win against Virginia Tech,” Zailski said. “When we went back in the locker room we knew we had to keep pressuring, and eventually the chances would fall.”

Pitt’s freshman defender Katie Zailski (21) celebrates a Pitt goal during Thursday’s game against Miami at Ambrose Urbanic Field.
(Hannah Wilson | Senior Staff Photographer )

Whatever head coach Randy Waldrum said to the team at halftime, it must’ve worked. The Panthers scored three goals in twelve minutes, all of them off of set pieces. The first came off a free kick in the 50th minute, when sophomore midfielder Ellie Coffield sent one into the 6-yard box. After the ball bounced around, Zailski picked up the rebound and drilled it into the back of the net.

Two minutes later, on the exact same play, the Panthers scored again. Senior forward Landy Mertz benefitted from a scramble in front of the net and cleaned up the mess to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead. Senior defender Ashton Gordon assisted on the goal, and credited the team’s work ethic for their positive results.

“Preparation, we run it all the time in practice,” Gordon said. “We’re getting our set pieces in the right place, and everyone has a part in it.”

The Panthers scored their final goal of the game in the 62nd minute. On another set piece, this time a corner kick, Gordon headed a pass to Pais who headed it into the net for the Panthers third goal of the night. Pais celebrated her sixth goal of the season by running towards the crowd and egging them on to cheer.

Gordon applauded the home atmosphere, and emphasized the importance of the home games when four of Pitt’s next five games are on the road.

“It’s super important to win home games in the ACC,” she said. “If you can win at home, then steal some on the road, it puts you in a really good spot as a team.”

The Panthers hit the road for their next game against Notre Dame (8-1, 1-1 ACC) on Sept. 25. ACC Network Extra will stream the game at 7 p.m.