Pitt dominates cross-town rival No. 25 Duquesne in 5-2 victory


Colleen Nguyen | Staff Photographer

Graduate defender Josh Luchini (19) battles for the ball with a Duquesne player Monday night.

By Brian Sherry, Staff Writer

In college sports, playing a cross-state rival is usually a high energy affair. On the rare occasion that cross-town rivals as close together as Pitt and Duquesne meet, fireworks usually ensue. 

The two Pittsburgh foes clashed Monday night at Ambrose Urbanic Field with the Panthers (7-3-3, 3-2-1 ACC) earning a 5-2 win despite a late game push by the No. 25 Dukes (10-1-3, 4-0-2 A-10). 

Pitt goalkeeper Joe van der Sar was proud of his team’s effort in preventing the late game comeback.

“Great bounce back from the guys,” van der Sar said. “They really pushed up front, which made it easier for us in the last ten minutes in the back.”

Duquesne attacked first, as junior midfielder and forward Nate Dragisich launched a shot toward the goal. But the Panther defense wouldn’t let the Dukes score that easily, blocking the shot before it ever reached goalie Joe van der Sar. Van der Sar was happy with his performance despite difficulties in the second half.

“It was a tough one,” van der Sar said. “Especially the first half, we kept a clean sheet and we looked very steady. And in the second half we ran into a bit of trouble.”

The Dukes struggled with limiting fouls throughout the game, racking up six fouls and one yellow card in the first half alone. On the other hand, the Panthers played clean in the first half, only allowing one foul. But Pitt ran into trouble in the second half, accumulating eight fouls in the period. 

The Panthers spent the opening minutes of the game on the defensive, going without a shot for the first 10 minutes. Graduate student midfielder Rodrigo Almeida finally generated some offense for the Panthers in the 11th minute, firing off a shot. But the Dukes repaid the favor by blocking the Pitt shot. 

Both teams broke out into a flurry of shooting after the 15th minute. First the Panthers passed the ball deep into Duke territory, firing off two shots, but both missed their target. Then Duquesne sophomore forward Maxi Hopfer broke through Panther defenders, launching a shot on goal. But van der Sar stopped the shot and earned his first save of the night. 

Neither team could score for the first 23 minutes. Eventually, the Panthers gained the early advantage as graduate student defender Lucas Rosa broke free down the right side of the field. He then delivered a clutch pass to sophomore forward Luis Sahmkow, who fired off a shot directly in the top of the net, giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead. 

Pitt nearly added to its lead in the 38th minute after being awarded a corner kick. The Panthers moved the ball around close to the Duquesne goal, nearly finding an open shot in front of the net but the Dukes finally cleared the ball out. Panther sophomore midfielder Guilherme Feitosa eventually retained possession of the ball, but missed a shot just right of the Dukes goal.  

The Dukes struggled to answer for the remainder of the half, only mustering one shot. 

Pitt finally added to their lead in the waning minutes of the first half. Senior midfielder Valentin Noel found the back of the net off a pass from Feitosa, sending the Panthers to the locker room with a 2-0 lead. 

A small scuffle broke out in the opening moments of the second half. The referees quickly broke up the altercation and handed out a yellow card to Anthony Harding, a former Panther and current Duke graduate student defender. 

Pitt carried its strong first half performance into the second half. Sophomore midfielder Micheal Sullivan ripped a shot into the bottom right of the goal to give the Panthers a dominant 3-0 lead in the 54th minute. 

But the Dukes responded just 12 seconds later. First-year midfielder Ask Ekeland quickly pushed down field to score an unassisted goal, giving the Dukes a much-needed answer to Pitt’s three unanswered goals. 

The goal seemed to give the Dukes a burst of energy, despite still being down two goals. They quickly fired off another shot, but the Panthers blocked the shot, preventing another goal. 

But the Dukes were undeterred as they pushed the ball deep into Panther territory. Following a free kick by Hopfer, the ball bounced off a Pitt player into the Panthers own goal. The own goal cut the Panthers lead down to just one, well within striking distance for the Dukes. 

Down the stretch, the Dukes continued to hunt for the win, ripping off four shots the 10 minutes following the goal. But the Panthers wouldn’t give up the lead that easily. Graduate midfielder Jackson Walti fired a shot into the back of the net in the 78th minute to give the Panthers a cushy 4-2 lead.

Both teams kept up the intensity in the closing minutes of the game. Pitt graduate senior forward Josh Luchini found the back of the net on a header in the 89th minute, adding one more goal for good measure. Pitt defeated the Dukes 5-2, notching its seventh win of the season. 

The Panthers will need to recover quickly before they hit the road to face off against No. 3 Duke on Friday at 8 p.m. Pitt head coach Jay Vidovich said the game will be a major test for the Panthers.

“[Duke] is a mature team,” Vidovich said. “They are dynamic, they have great leadership. So it’s going to be a tremendous challenge, especially at their place.”

Graduate defender Lucas Rosa (6) kicks the ball during the men’s soccer game against Duquesne Monday night. (Colleen Nguyen | Staff Photographer)