Penalty kick rebound downs Panthers in extra time

For 92 minutes, the Pitt women’s soccer team had a chance to get a result. That possibility evaporated on an extra time penalty kick rebound.

Hosting Louisville on Thursday night, the Panthers (6-10 overall, 2-6 ACC) limited the opposition to six chances on goal in regulation, holding the score even at zero to get the game to extra time.

“I thought we were outplaying them. I thought we were the better team,” senior captain Jackie Poucel said. “We were working hard.”  

But a 40-second sequence that began with the tweet of a referee’s whistle and ended with the visitors celebrating, undid that effort swiftly once play resumed, and Louisville won 1-0.

In the third minute of the first sudden-death overtime period, the Cardinals (7-7-2, 3-3-2 ACC) restarted an attack deep in Pitt’s half of the field with a well-worked play off a throw-in. The ball found Louisville forward Lexie Niedoba in the box, but with Poucel on her back, she passed to Isabella Habuda as the forward made a diagonal run toward goal. Her first touch took the ball off her foot and gave Poucel an opening for a tackle, which she initially missed.

Stepping out to get position and clear the ball away, Poucel made shoulder-to-shoulder contact with her mark during the scramble, who then fell to the turf. Head referee Andrew Chapin called a penalty.

“I bumped her, and she dove,” Poucel said. “It happens. It’s soccer.”

Sophomore goalie Taylor Francis guessed correctly on the kick, diving to her left to save the shot by Chatham DeProspo.

Francis couldn’t hold on to the attempt, though, and the ball rolled free in front of her. With play now live after the kick, DeProspo ran forward and attempted to put away the rebound, but Francis, still on the ground, also blocked that effort. But on the third try, Louisville freshman Inger Katrine Bjerke came charging from outside the box and made solid contact on a shot that she placed beyond Francis and into the net to end the game.

She finished with eight saves.

Poucel said she and her teammates didn’t succeed in aiding their goalie’s after the two massive stops.

“We didn’t help her. We let her hang out to dry. That’s our fault,” she said.

No Pitt players came close to disrupting either of Louisville’s point-blank attempts to score, a scene that stuck out to head coach Greg Miller.

“Taylor Francis comes up with two massive saves, and we don’t have the awareness or anticipation that she’s gonna make some saves or the balls not gonna go in. We let them come in and just finish the ball,” Miller said. “It’s just very, very frustrating to lose the game in that particular situation.”

In a game where both teams were evenly matched for the majority of play, Miller said the difference comes down to that one opportunity.

“In a game like that, anything can happen at any moment for either team. You just hope that you get lucky enough to get a moment to get the lead or win the game.” he said. “They got their moment and they got out of here with a win.”

Given the performance of the team up until that final moment of play, to have the game end on a sequence out of the control of the players made it difficult for Poucel, a senior who now has just two games left in her collegiate career.

“It sucks. It’s awful,” Poucel said.

The Panthers, now on a four-game losing streak, face No. 22 Clemson at 1 p.m. on Sunday for Senior Day, their last home game of the season.