Pitt women’s soccer earns first NCAA Tournament win against Buffalo


Ethan Shulman | Staff Photographer

Ellie Coffield (4), Pitt sophomore midfielder, and Kaya Schultz (24), Buffalo sophomore midfielder, compete for the ball during Saturday’s game.

By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer

Pitt defeated Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA College Cup tournament on its home turf. The wet and brisk November evening didn’t discourage fans as they filled the bleachers at Ambrose Urbanic Field on Saturday night.

According to senior forward Leah Pais, the win shows how far they’ve come as a program.  

“We keep breaking barriers as such a young team,” Pais said. “You know, some people who are freshmen… and first years and it’s like, when you believe in each other and the power that you all can do and put onto the field, you can make things possible.” 

Pitt (12-4-3, 5-3-2 ACC) has had a historic season so far and their first postseason victory adds another milestone to the list. Between the program’s first-ever wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, and qualifying for both ACC Championships and NCAA Championships, the Panthers’ 2022 campaign still has the chance to further their legacy.

The Bulls (15-1-4, 7-0-4 MAC) won the possession battle at the start, but Pitt’s defense quickly shut them down. Soon after, the Panthers gained possession and gave sophomore forward Samiah Phiri a chance at net, but she missed the net. It was the first of three shots that Pitt had in the first seven minutes of gameplay. 

The opportunities cooled down until the 18th minute, when Buffalo sophomore forward Jasmine Guerber got a shot off on the Panther’s defense, missing slightly wide. Buffalo tallied just three total shots compared to Pitt’s 11 in the first half of the game.

In the latter stages of the first period, the Panthers amped up the pressure on the Bull’s defense. In the 22nd minute, Phiri executed a perfect cross to sophomore forward Sarah Schupansky for what looked like a wide-open chance at goal, but Buffalo goalkeeper Emily Kelly made a huge save, tipping it just outside the post. While the Panthers gave themselves plenty of scoring opportunities by frequently crossing the ball into the box during the first half, they couldn’t capitalize.

Neither side could find a goal in the first half, retreating to the locker room tied at zero. The Panthers spent most of the half pressuring Buffalo’s defense, but couldn’t put shots on goal. The issue continued in the second half of the game.

The second half started similarly to the first, with a Buffalo possession that quickly turned over to the Panthers. The ball spent a lot of time in the Bull’s box, giving Kelly another save in the 53rd minute. 

Buffalo didn’t hold possession for long before Pitt took it straight to the box for another shot. Still, the Panthers couldn’t break through.

Around the 64th minute, Buffalo began to put pressure on the Panthers’ defense when senior defender Ashton Gordon fouled the Bulls for a penalty kick. The Bulls kicked a pass straight for a header in the box, but Pitt senior goalkeeper Caitlyn Lazzarini timed her jump perfectly, deflecting the shot.

The Panthers pushed the ball on offense throughout the game, creating many opportunities to score. On a breakaway in the 75th minute, Schupansky found herself with some free real estate. In a face-off between her and Kelly, Schupansky shot the ball just right of the goalpost. The score remained 0-0. 

At this point in the game, time was running out and both teams worked hard to take the lead. Offensively, Pitt slowed down a little in the second half with only six shots compared to its 11 in the first half. Pitt head coach Randy Waldrum was impressed by the number of chances his team produced, but acknowledged they needed to be sharper in the coming rounds.

“We had a lot more chances tonight than we’ve had in the last couple of games,” Waldrum said. “I think now it’s just got to, you know, we just got to pay attention to be clinical because the deeper the run you make, the fewer chances you get.”

Luckily, the Panthers got one last chance at goal in the 84th minute.

Pais tripped and fell to the ground hard inside the box during a Panther attack and waited there for a few seconds for the penalty call. She stayed down in the box, but the refs continued play. She then saw senior midfielder Anna Bout kick the ball across the box where Pais quickly popped up with impeccable timing and made a flawless header into the back of the net. The Panthers took the decisive 1-0 lead, with less than six minutes left in the game. 

After a strong defensive stand, the horn sounded for the end of the game, and the Panthers made history. 

The Panthers take on Georgetown Friday at Florida State for their second-round matchup — their first in program history. The game starts at 2 p.m and will stream on ESPN+.