Overtime goal by Murray lifts Panthers over High Point


By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

Kevin Murray scored early in overtime and keeper Dan Lynd had a career high in saves as Pitt men’s soccer won its first game in October against Big South conference-leader High Point.

“It was a good win. We battled, and there were some rough spots near the end of the game, but at the end of the day, you get a result and that’s all we needed,” head coach Joe Luxbacher said.

The win was Pitt’s first against a team with a winning record this late in the season since a 2004 game against Georgetown.

Despite the absence of leading scorer Mamadee Nyepon because of a red card suspension, High Point established its presence early, playing most of the first 20 minutes inside Pitt’s defensive half, coming close to beating goalkeeper Dan Lynd multiple times on his short side.

High Point’s team passed mostly via long balls through the air, an observation Pitt noticed when scouting its Big South opponent.

It appeared the Panthers were struggling to get into their offense — a common theme over the last several games.

Pitt made a coordinated effort to keep possession after a High Point free kick went astray in the 23rd minute. Instead of playing through balls from the midfield, the Panthers attempted to build from the back, passing in their own half and attempting to build a substantial attack.

The possession seemed to help the Panthers, as they nearly scored on a header off a free kick from roughly 30 yards out. The shot was Pitt’s first legitimate chance in the game at goal, and it came in the 30th minute.

The Panthers had an even better chance at scoring their first goal in three games when Hamish Law raced past the defense and shot a long shot from just inside the right-hand corner of the box. The shot rose quickly and went out of the reach of High Point goalkeeper Kody Palmer, hitting the top right corner of the crossbar.

Despite Pitt’s surge to end the first half, High Point outshot the Panthers 6-5. The teams played an even 45 minutes, with neither team able to convert the opportunities it had.

The Panthers began the second half similarly to the start of the first: stagnant. High Point put together two successful offensive possessions to begin the second 45 to bring its shot total to nine through the 60th minute.

High Point nearly scored again in the 61st minute, when Renato Punyed forced Lynd to dive to his right and make a sprawling save on a well-struck ball.

The Panthers didn’t register their first shot of the second half until the 64th minute, when Patrick Dixon shot a bouncing cross above the bar, despite being only a few feet from goal. The pass to Dixon appeared to deflect off a High Point defender, which made it tough for the Australian winger to control with his right foot.

Neither team separated themselves from the other in 90 minutes, so the game headed to overtime. However, High Point had more opportunities at goal in regulation time, outshooting Pitt 17-8.

Murray netted the game winner just over two minutes into overtime after Cory Werth was able to separate himself from the defense on the right-hand side to make a perfect cross to the eventual game-winning scorer.

Pitt has made a habit of heading into extra time this season, having needed more than 90 minutes to decide a winner six times this season. Five of the games took place at Ambrose Urbanic Field. 

“To get over that hump, it just shows that we actually can battle and grind to get the last goal,” Murray said.

Murray’s game-winner provides the Panthers with much-needed life as they re-enter ACC play with a bout in Durham against the Duke Blue Devils.

After his nine-save performance, Lynd realized how crucial the win could be in the strange script that has been Pitt’s season.

“If we can beat Duke we’re still in the hunt, so the win was huge for our confidence,” he said.

The Panthers will travel down to Durham later this week to take on the Blue Devils, with the contest scheduled to start at 7 p.m. on Friday.