Panthers prepare for toughest test of young season


By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

After a weekend road trip with two games, the Pitt men’s soccer team aims to pull off the upset in its first ACC matchup of the season against North Carolina on Friday.

Pitt (2-1) had mild success on the trip, registering close to the same amount of shots as its opponents in both games. Against William and Mary, the Panthers back four made numerous mistakes, leaving goalkeeper Dan Lynd one on one in several cases. 

While Pitt made numerous offensive pushes, players couldn’t finish close to goal, which led to the 4-0 final scoreline.

“The game wasn’t as lopsided in terms of the play, but the score was, obviously,” coach Joe Luxbacher said. “We made some mistakes, and they caught us.”

The defense was not a problem against Longwood, as Pitt stifled the Lancers and held them scoreless. Hamish Law scored the lone goal of the game for the Panthers off the bench in the 1-0 victory. 

“I watched the team struggle on Friday,” Law said. “It was unbelievable to come off the bench and score like that. All the hard work paid off for the team.”

While it was important for Pitt to pick up a result on the road, UNC may be the toughest opponent the Panthers play all year.

Pitt is a considerable underdog in this contest, coming off an ACC season in which it failed to win one game. 

Last season Pitt’s offensive woes cost the team immensely — the Panthers were shut out in twelve games, including a defeat at home to UNC. 

North Carolina’s back line may be even stronger this season, as they have yet to give up more than one goal in any of their regular season games.

“It’s just a matter of getting the ball up quickly and attacking as quickly as possible,” Law said, regarding the Panthers’ offensive strategy.

The Panthers will have to avoid the defensive miscues that plagued them against William and Mary, their toughest opponent to date.

But it’s a new season, and the Panthers believe that they are a more skilled side than the one that lost 1-0 at home to North Carolina last season. Pitt showed moments of promise in the early stages of the season, relying on ball possession and quick numbers moving forward to register as many offensive opportunities as possible.

In their first three regular season games, the Panthers have combined to score four goals. Last season, Pitt did not reach the four-goal mark until the seventh game of the year.

The Tar Heels enter the game ranked third in the country in the latest polls after registering a 3-1 record in their first four games. Their only loss came in a highly competitive game against top ranked UCLA in the second game of the season, while they’ve beaten two ranked opponents in Cal-Berkeley and Old Dominion University.

UNC is led offensively by forward Andy Craven and midfielders Rob Lovejoy and Omar Holness. Craven and Lovejoy have combined for 10 of the Tar Heels’ 13 points, while Holness picked up his first cap for the Jamaican national team on Tuesday in an international friendly against Canada.

“We’re going to have to play really good team defense,” Luxbacher said. “We’re going to have to keep the ball once we get it, not just give the ball back.”

Holding down the Tar Heels’ star-studded offense will be a tough task for Pitt’s back line, but senior defender Julian Dickenson believes the Panthers have as good of chance as any team. 

“They’re a great team, but every team we play in the ACC especially is a great team,” Dickenson said. “We have a plan, and we’ve been looking at a lot of scouting reports on them. We’re just going to take it to them like any other team.” 

The game starts at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN3.