Pitt falls apart in Big East tourney loss, ends season

By Jay Huerbin

Despite making the Big East tournament for the first time since 2006, the Pitt men’s soccer team… Despite making the Big East tournament for the first time since 2006, the Pitt men’s soccer team fell to DePaul, 3-1, yesterday afternoon. The loss officially marks the end of the season for the young team, which hopes to build upon one more year of experience. ‘It was progress,’ said Coach Joe Luxbacher about the team this season. ‘It wasn’t as much as we had expected or hoped, but we definitely improved from last year.’ Pitt, which entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed from the Blue Division, failed to upset the Red Division’s No. 3-seeded Blue Demons in a windy game at Wish Field in Chicago. ‘It was a very windy game,’ said Luxbacher. ‘But that’s just part of the game that we had to deal with.’ Playing into the wind during the first half, the team got off to a slow start as DePaul’s Nathan Feltz flipped the ball past Pitt’s starting goaltender Eric Barnes in the third minute. With now an uphill and upwind battle, the Panthers struggled to stop the rush or start anything offensively. ‘Any time you’re on the road, you want to be very safe and sure early in the game,’ said Luxbacher. ‘And when you play a team like DePaul, who has only given up nine or 10 goals a season, going down 1-0 early is the last thing you want.’ The Blue Demons continued to control the first half, and Mark Plotkin scored in the 31st minute to extend the Blue Demons’ lead. Fletz followed by scoring his second goal six minutes later. Pitt, having been outshot 13-1, headed into the halftime down, 3-0. ‘In the first half, we were just a step off,’ said Luxbacher about Pitt’s effort. ‘We just weren’t at the level of play that we needed to be.’ Luxbacher came out of the second half with a new look at the goaltending position, as he replaced Barnes with Jordan Marks. With their season on the line, the Panthers came into the second half aggressive and desperate for a goal. ‘At halftime we jumped on our guys, who had physically been beat in the first half, to play a much more direct style of play,’ said Luxbacher. ‘We had to become more physical.’ It paid off. Less than six minutes into the new period, Chris Wilcox got Pitt on the scoreboard, cutting the lead to 3-1. Three minutes later, Wilcox looked to strike again, but his shot rocketed off the post behind DePaul’s Brian Visser. ‘After [Pitt’s goal], Chris hit the post and almost made it a 3-2 game,’ said Luxbacher. ‘If that ball goes in, it’s a whole new game. There were still 30 minutes left in the half and we could have gotten right back into it.’ The Panthers, who eventually outshot the Blue Demons 6-5 in the second half, showed signs of desperation, but could not overcome their early deficit. With the loss, the Panthers concluded their season with a 7-8-3 overall record. They fell to 3-6-2 in Big East play. Still, for the Panthers, optimism for next year’s team is high. ‘We have to get better. They have to get better. We have to get better players and we have to coach better. The whole thing,’ said Luxbacher. ‘That’s the goal and I think we’ll have a better team next year.’