Panthers open three game series at home after loss


By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

After facing the nation’s best team over the weekend, midfielder Brandon Kolczynski and the rest of the Pitt men’s soccer team will be happy to return home for three games following a tough road trip to North Carolina and the now top-ranked Tar Heels.

But that does not mean that they will overlook their next opponent — Lafayette.

“We know they’re not as good of a team, so just take out the mental errors, and we should have it under control,” Kolczynski said.

The team begins a three-game homestand against Lafayette tonight, looking to improve its undefeated record at Ambrose Urbanic Field this season.

The Panthers expect to take advantage of two lesser opponents during its homestand, as both Lafayette and Niagara are not in power conferences. In between those games is a conference matchup against North Carolina State, which is 2-2 the season.

Pitt, after just losing to then third-ranked UNC in its last game, will expect a better performance from the back line and try to possess the ball with more consistency than the team could against the Tar Heels.

The mental errors that Kolczynski referred to came in the second half against UNC when the Tar Heels put the game away by scoring their second and third goals from miscues in Pitt’s defense.

This will be the first-ever meeting between Pitt and Lafayette, a team that plays in the Patriot league.

Lafayette is a rather unimpressive 1-3-1 this season, with the lone win coming against St. Peter’s in the first game of the season. Since then, the Leopards have been involved in close affairs, by not losing a game by more than one goal and playing into extra time twice.

The team’s most impressive effort came in a road loss against Rutgers, when they pushed the Scarlet Knights in the second half but could not score the game-tying goal in the final minutes.

The Leopards have four players with two points apiece, providing a balanced offensive attack. Pitt will most likely win the possession battle without much of a contest, but Lafayette’s spread-out offense could be dangerous in the counterattack.

Based on how the season has gone for Pitt so far, one of these teams will fail to score a single goal. The Panthers have been on one end of a shutout in each of their games this year.

The Panthers’ offense has been far from stagnant this year, despite being shut out twice. Pitt has averaged one goal per game in its four contests, which is a far cry from last year’s scoring woes.

However, this statistic is slightly skewed, as three of those goals came in its opening win against Presbyterian. Over the last three games, the Panthers have only managed one goal.

They have a good chance at padding that statistic during the homestand with two games against teams outside of power conferences.

“I think we have to compare it to last year,” sophomore midfielder Kevin Murray said. “Last year, we weren’t even getting opportunities. We weren’t even getting the technique, it was mostly park the bus and hope for a draw.”

Murray has been impressive off the bench for the Panthers this season, providing an instant offensive threat. He scored his only goal of the season against Presbyterian.

In the shutout loss to UNC, Pitt failed to possess the ball for long stretches of time. Head coach Joe Luxbacher said that against top opponents, the Panthers will need to work on their possession.

“As a whole, there were some good spots,” Luxbacher said regarding the loss to UNC. “We’ve got to keep the ball more, and you have to do it in a way that you can get numbers forward and create chances.”

While Lafayette isn’t the same caliber team as UNC, Pitt cannot get too comfortable, as its next game is against NC State in its second ACC contest of the year.

Pitt has had more success in non-conference contests this season, largely due to the opponents it has played. William and Mary is the toughest non-ACC team Pitt has played this year, as evidenced by a 4-0 defeat.

Although it’s still early in the season, Pitt has yet to lose a regular season or exhibition game at home. The Panthers will also look to improve on their impressive home record this year, beginning with Lafayette.