Panthers split pair of weekend games in Philadelphia


By Kevin Wheeler / Staff Writer

The Pitt women’s soccer team went into its road trip this past weekend with hopes of winning both of its games against Villanova University and La Salle University. It returns home on Monday having accomplished half of that goal.

The Panthers (4-3) defeated the Villanova Wildcats 2-1 on Friday but couldn’t keep their momentum against a physical La Salle team on Sunday, suffering a 1-0 defeat to the Explorers.

Villanova showed the Panthers a different look than they have been used to in their early games this season. The Wildcats played soft defensively, giving Pitt a lot of room to work with when they were controlling the ball. Having more room to work on offense is usually a good thing, but, in this case, head coach Greg Miller wouldn’t agree.

“It gave us too much time on the ball and too much time to make decisions,” Miller said. “We don’t function well that way … We get away from playing fast, moving and sharing the ball and building. You try to solve things as an individual instead of finding your teammates.”

The Panthers had plenty of opportunities to score against Villanova, recording 18 shots, as opposed to 15 for the Wildcats. The game was scoreless for the first 70 minutes, until junior midfielder Roosa Arvas was able to put a Hanna Hannesdottir pass into the back of the net for the Panthers, giving them a 1-0 advantage.

Pitt became complacent with the lead. Just seven minutes later, Villanova junior Renee Hart put a score on the board for the Wildcats, tying the game at one.

Arvas wasn’t done for Pitt, however. In the 79th minute, she made her presence known once again.

“Taylor Francis, [Pitt’s] goalkeeper, found Siobhan [McDonough] and just kind of threw it out to her in the middle of the field, and Villanova was asleep,” Miller recounted. “Then Siobhan found Roosa [Arvas] at midfield, and their goalkeeper was playing off of her line quite a bit, so Roosa just picked her head up and put a shot over her head from 40 yards out.”  

Pitt went up 2-1 at that point and never looked back.  

While it took Pitt time to break through, it wasn’t the Wildcats’ defense that caused them problems.

“When [the Wildcats] got the ball, they would just hit it as far down the field as they could,” senior captain and defender Jackie Poucel said. “That threw us off a bit because, if we lost the ball, it was immediately back down our throats again.”

Nevertheless, Pitt’s tallies at the end of regulation were the difference in the game against Villanova, and the Panthers were able to pin down a win before facing the La Salle Explorers on Sunday.

After one day of rest, Pitt headed into the matchup with La Salle seeking a second win in three days. But the Explorers had other ideas.

La Salle brought an approach to the game that was night and day compared to what the Panthers faced two days earlier against Villanova. Poucel recognized that Pitt was “facing adversity that some of the girls weren’t used to, especially the physicality of the game.” 

“Their pressure prevented us from keeping the ball as much as we usually can, and we panicked,” Poucel said. “I don’t know if it was the inexperience that hit us [Sunday] or what exactly happened, but we have to get back to the drawing board and address it.”

Once again, Pitt’s biggest issue proved to be its youth and inexperience. Unfortunately, for Miller and his Panthers, that’s the one problem they can’t fix with hard work and practice.

“We didn’t do a good job from the onset of matching their intensity, and I think that was the difference in the game,” Miller said. “[La Salle] was very persistent with their pressure, and eventually were able to get a goal out of how they play and just kept applying the pressure from there.”

La Salle found scoring opportunities throughout the contest, while Pitt struggled to find breathing room on offense due to the hard-nosed Explorer defense. The home team doubled up Pitt on shots, 15-8, and had the advantage in shots on goal as well, 8-3.  

In the 65th minute, La Salle sophomore defender and midfielder Danielle Marx put a header into the Pitt goal off of a pass from senior forward Kelsey Haycook, putting the Explorers up 1-0.  

One goal was all La Salle would need, as they would close out the game and earn a shutout victory over the Panthers.

Pitt will now shift its focus to Virginia Commonwealth University, who comes into Ambrose Urbanic Field on Friday.

Pitt freshman midfielder Ashley Moreira knows that she and her teammates have a lot of work to do, and they will begin training again on Monday.

“I think we should be working on keeping possession as a team, being more aggressive in practice and ultimately just working hard,” Moreira said. “We need to raise our work ethic in practice, so we will do the same in games.”

Although the Panthers got out-muscled on Sunday, the team is still trying to win games. Pitt comes out of this weekend with a 4-3 overall record with another two weeks before their first in-conference matchup with Duke. There is plenty of time for Miller and his staff to get players to execute more efficiently. His message after Friday’s game may have been a bit premature, due to the fact that they came up with a loss on Sunday, but it holds merit nonetheless.

“I said, ‘You guys are just finding ways to win games, and that’s huge’,” Miller said. “We’ll work through the soccer part, but at the end of the day, knowing how to win is very, very important.”


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