Panthers men’s soccer season ends with 2-0 loss to Indiana in NCAA semifinal


Hannah Wilson | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt men’s soccer players react to their 1-0 win over Portland in the elite eight round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament.

By Brian Sherry, Senior Staff Writer

Two years ago, Pitt fell to Indiana 1-0 in the NCAA semifinals. The loss loomed large this week, as the Panthers geared up to take on the Hoosiers again in the NCAA semifinal in Cary, NC. The Panthers wanted to avoid the mistakes of the past, but to no avail.

Pitt men’s soccer fell to Indiana 2-0 on Friday night in the NCAA semifinal for the second time in three seasons. The loss marks the end of Pitt’s season and sends the Panthers home just one game short of the national championship game. 

The Hoosiers utilized two first-half goals to overcome the Panthers. Pitt battled in the second half to attempt a comeback, but Indiana continually halted the Panthers’ scoring opportunities. 

Both teams spent the first few minutes of the game feeling each other out. Neither team could generate any offense in the opening minutes, going 13 minutes without a shot in the contest.

But Indiana finally drew first blood in the 13th minute. The Hoosiers drove down the pitch and drew a penalty right in front of the Panther goal. Redshirt senior forward Ryan Wittenbrink took the penalty kick, shooting directly toward Pitt senior goalie Joe van der Sar. The Panther goalkeeper blocked the shot, but Wittenbrink fielded the rebound and fired off another shot into the back of the net. The goal gave Indiana an early 1-0. 

Pitt tried to find a quick equalizer, but to no avail. The Panthers also struggled with fouls early, accumulating nine before the end of the half. 

But the Panthers eventually found their stride for a moment in the 25th minute. Graduate student midfielder Jackson Walti fired off an open shot toward the bottom left corner of the goal. But Hoosier junior goalkeeper JT Harms narrowly deflected the shot, diving to the left to make the save. 

The Panthers kept chipping away at the Hoosier defense throughout the closing minutes of the first half. Pitt found a strong scoring opportunity in the 37th minute, as the Panthers were able to draw a foul deep into Hoosier territory. But the Panthers just couldn’t capitalize, as the ball ultimately trickled out of bounds.

Indiana was just more effective at capitalizing on scoring opportunities than the Panthers in the first half. The Hoosiers found another scoring opportunity with mere seconds remaining in the half. Sophomore forward Tommy Mihalic fielded the ball in a tricky position on the right side of the goal. With little room to work, Mihalic fired off a shot and just found the top right corner of the net. Mihalic’s goal added to the Hoosiers’ 2-0 lead with less than 20 seconds remaining in the first half. 

The Panthers headed to the locker room with significant work to do. The first half surely did not go as planned, but the Panthers had 45 minutes left in the match to rebound. 

But the Panthers needed some time to find themselves in the second half. Pitt couldn’t find a shot for the first 11 minutes of the second half. Junior midfielder Filip Mirkovic finally opened up the second half for the Panthers, launching an open shot toward the goal. But Mirkovic missed just right of the goal with the shot. 

Pitt found another scoring opportunity just a minute later. This time junior forward Bertin Jacquesson battled through Hoosier defenders right in front of the goal. But Jaquesson could not find the back of the net, as his shot was blocked by Indiana defensemen.

Frustrations mounted for the Panthers, as Indiana continued to dash any dreams of a Pitt comeback. The Panthers managed to fight down the field in the 74th minute, trying desperately to find an answer. Pitt eventually flipped the ball up towards Jaquesson for the header. But Indiana once again prevented the Panther score, as Harms batted away Jaquesson’s header. 

The Panthers’ chances of a comeback looked bleak, as the clock ticked below ten minutes. Pitt continued to attack in Hoosier territory— but to no avail.

Indiana bled out the clock to secure the 2-0 win. The Hoosiers will now play Syracuse on Monday at 6 p.m. for the national title. Coverage will air on ESPNU.

The loss ended the Panthers’ season, but 2022 was not a disappointment for the Panthers. The team qualified for their second College Cup in program history. Pitt had a successful season, even if fans hoped for a national title.