Streaking Panthers stumble, fall to rival Fighting Irish 2-0


For the first half of its game against No. 14 Notre Dame, the Pitt women’s soccer team had all the luck.

Two near-scoring chances by the Fighting Irish in a five-minute span during the middle of the period hit the crossbar.

But the luck ran out just before halftime because of an unrelenting Irish attack, and the Panthers lost their game Thursday night at Ambrose Urbanic Field, getting shutout 2-0 and ending their two-game winning streak. 

Coming into the contest, the former Big East foe has dominated the series between the two schools, possessing a 11-0-1 record. 

Pitt (6-7 overall, 2-3 ACC) recorded its first ACC wins in program history over the last two weekends, while Notre Dame’s (8-4-1 overall, 3-2 ACC) most recent contest was a loss to No. 4 University of Virginia by a score of 2-1. 

Early on, neither side built a substantial attack, but eventually the visitors settled in with help from the Panthers.

Miscommunication between two Pitt players in their own defensive box in the 17th minute saw a ball not get cleared away to safety. An ensuing scramble for possession with a charging Notre Dame player resulted in an obstruction call on a Pitt player, leading to an indirect kick 16 yards from goal by Morgan Andrews, which went high over the bar.

Soon after, teammate Lauren Bohaboy received the ball outside the box on the right side and cut in on her left foot, separating from her marker and shot. The attempt had pace and was out of reach of Pitt’s goalie Taylor Francis, but the ball struck the frame of goal and went high. A Notre Dame attempt to redirect the rebound on net was deflected high out of play for a corner.

Nothing came from that set piece, but a little over five minutes later, the Fighting Irish got a restart out wide left level with the box. It swung in, and Andrews met it with her head, powering it towards net, but the bar again saved Pitt from conceding the game’s first goal.

The stat sheet at the break reflected Notre Dame’s dominance in the first half: 15 shots on goal, with five on target, to Pitt’s three total attempts, two of which were on goal, neither challenging the goalie. 

When facing such an offensive onslaught, the sophomore Francis says the key is to stay calm. 

“When you’re getting that much action, it’s really stressful. I get a lot of anxiety,” Francis said. “You just kind of have to slow your breathing down and focus on each shot individually, each play individually.”  

The defense held for a little longer with players throwing themselves in front of numerous Irish attempts on net.

Head coach Greg Miller said that beginning with its game against Boston College the team began breaking games into quarters.  

“We got through the first quarter without giving up anything. While we didn’t create a lot of chances, that’s still a positive for us,” Miller said. “Where in some of these other games we’ve been giving up early goals, that was good.” 

That didn’t last.

“In the next 22 minutes, it got a little scary,” he said.

In the 42nd minute, some sharp passing and buildup play by the Irish cleared Lauren Bohaboy an open path to goal at top of the box to the right of the half circle, and she took advantage, slotting the ball into the far side netting between two Pitt defenders. It was her fourth goal of the year.

The score was the culmination of discombobulated play from Pitt over the course of the opening 45 minutes, according to Miller.

“We really panicked under pressure a lot of times. We gave the ball away at times without pressure. It causes you to have to defend for longer periods of time, and defend in our own half of the field and it just makes life a lot more difficult,” Miller said. “If we’re able to get out and possess the ball a little higher up the field, it takes them longer to come back at us.“

The flow of the game evened out when play resumed, but the Panthers couldn’t manage to put together an attack to break down the opposition’s defense or goalie. 

Any chance Pitt had of leveling the score disappeared when Notre Dame’s Andrews won the ball off a Panther defender deep in the offensive third and took aim at goal from 25 yards out, as she finished with power to the left side of the net for her fifth goal of the season.  

The Irish almost added a third when, in the final minute of regulation, Cari Roccaro blasted an attempt right at Francis who punched it out of bounds. Senior defender Jackie Poucel said the energy from the opposition never waned.

“They put a lot of pressure on us,” Poucel said. “Our game plan was to try to stay a little bit more composed than that, but you never know how it goes when you get on the field.” 

Sunday, Pitt will return to the Tar Heel State to face No. 7 University of North Carolina.