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Men’s soccer hosts Fighting Irish in season finale Saturday

By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

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Pitt men’s soccer will try to end the season on a high note as it hosts fifth-ranked Notre Dame on senior night at Ambrose Urbanic Field on Saturday.

The game will be the last for six Panthers. In its four years at Pitt, the class was unable to register a winning record in a single season, but was a part of the University’s inaugural season in the ACC.

“It’ll be great,” senior forward Cory Werth said. “It’s great to finish against one of the top teams in the country.”

Werth said he wouldn’t be too emotional until after the game, when he is able to put things in perspective.

While this game has no real meaning for Pitt, Coach Joe Luxbacher said the senior night festivities won’t be a distraction.

“These guys have put together a lot of effort and productivity the last four years … it’s definitely not a distraction. It’s a deserving ceremony for them and their families,” he said.

The Panthers are still attempting to win their first conference game as a member of the ACC. Having joined before the 2013 season, that fact is becoming more a burden than it has in the past.

Garnering that first win will be tough for Pitt on Saturday, as it goes up against last year’s national champion, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The Irish are primed to make another run in the NCAA Tournament, sporting a 5-1-1 conference record, with their only slip up being at home to lowly Boston College, which dropped Notre Dame from their number-one ranking.

Offensively, Notre Dame is led by Patrick Hodan, who has 16 points on the year, averaging one per game the Irish have played. He’s also contributed seven goals.

The Panthers have had trouble defensively against ranked teams this season, giving up three goals to North Carolina and four to Louisville. In its last home game against a ranked opponent, Pitt allowed three more goals to Virginia.

Pitt’s defense could be helped by the return of one of its starters, Julian Dickenson. Luxbacher could only guess on whether the center back would be available in a short-term sub duty in his final game as Panther, calling it a “50/50 decision.”

Last time out, the Duke Blue Devils defeated the Panthers in Durham 2-1. Pitt gave up two early goals after a few defensive breakdowns and was unable to dig themselves out of the hole, despite looking like the better team for the majority of the game.

The result was frustrating for the Panthers, considering they were able to outshoot Duke and put together an effort that should have been enough to earn them their first ever ACC win. 

However, this type of result has plagued Pitt this season. Earlier this year, the Panthers tied on the road against Virginia Tech in a game they admittedly should have won.

“We’ve got to be focused,” said defender Ryan Myers. “If we hand them easy chances like we did against Duke then they’re going to convert. That’s something we can’t afford to do.”

Pitt is optimistic because the team has performed much better offensively toward the season’s end. While it may not show up in the goal tally, the Panthers’ offense has been much more fluid in their last few games.

“We’ve been playing pretty well,” Luxbacher said. “But we make a mistake here or there that kills you. When you play top teams that’s what happens … we really have to eliminate mistakes. You can’t give them anything.”

Still, it will be a tough task to score against Notre Dame goalkeeper Patrick Wall, who’s started every game for the Irish this season.

The game kicks off at 7 p.m., with the senior day ceremonies occurring before kick-off. 

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Men’s soccer hosts Fighting Irish in season finale Saturday