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Panthers secure first ever ACC win thanks to Arvas’ goal

By Kevin Wheeler / Staff Writer

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Pitt head coach Greg Miller and his Panthers can go to sleep tonight knowing they accomplished something that no other Pitt women’s soccer team has done in the past.

Pitt capped off its two-game road stint on Sunday with a 1-0 victory over the Syracuse Orange at SU Soccer Stadium, giving the program its first-ever ACC win and improving their overall record to 5-6-0.

The Panthers entered Sunday’s ACC contest on a four-game losing streak and a winless record in conference play dating back to the 2013 season, when they finished the year losing all 13 of their ACC matchups. Now, with Sunday’s win, not only do the Panthers have their first conference win, but they have also eclipsed their overall win total from last season. 

Miller has worked hard to turn the program around, and Sunday’s victory captured his commitment paying off.

“I feel a little bit of relief, a little bit of excitement,” Miller said. “I’m just really proud of this team. They’re young and still trying to find their way, but we had a great weekend. We didn’t play as well [Sunday] as we did Thursday, but we were able to get the win, and that feels pretty darn good.”

Sophomore co-captain and midfielder Siobhan McDonough was a part of this team through its struggles last season and knows what it feels like to lose. But the takeaway was just the opposite on Sunday.

“It feels great,” McDonough said. “The past couple of games we had been playing much better, and I knew it was just a matter of time before our first win in the ACC, so I am very excited.”

Late in the second half, shortly after the referee called back a Pitt goal when redshirt senior forward Alex Charlebois was caught offside, freshman forward Taylor Pryce drew a foul in the middle of the box off of a corner kick, which lead to a penalty kick opportunity.

Miller elected to have junior midfielder and forward Roosa Arvas take the kick, and she promptly booted it into the back of the net for a score in the 84th minute. With the goal, Arvas increased her goal total this season to seven, accompanying her team-leading 15 points, 30 shots and 17 shots on goal. She leads the Panthers in every offensive category.

Senior co-captain and defenseman Jackie Poucel, who has lead the young team all season, was there to support Arvas as the pressure built up with the penalty kick.

“In my mind, I knew it was going in,” Poucel said. “I had full confidence in Roosa. It was just an awesome feeling.”

Miller was confident in Arvas as well, citing her experience as being very valuable to the team.

“[Roosa] has been great, she’s won a lot of halves for us,” Miller said. “She seems to be our most able player when we need goals the most. When she’s confident and playing well, good things happen, whether she’s setting other people up or other people set her up, she’s able to capitalize.”

The game’s outcome was far from expected based on the first half of play. The Panthers came out and looked fatigued early, perhaps resulting from the long weekend away from home, since Pitt departed from Pittsburgh last Wednesday morning. But they responded with resilience after getting out of the first half knotted at zero with the Orange.

“[The players] were all tired, or mentally tired, as a result of being physically tired, and they were just able to dig a little bit deeper,” Miller said. “They just found a way, and they did it in a way that they didn’t panic. Slowly but surely, with every tackle, with every pass, with every ball cleared out, we were able to gain some confidence and put more pressure on [Syracuse]. Eventually, they were rewarded.”

The Panthers’ ability to respond to the pressure also showed with their performance against Boston College last Thursday. It was a game that they played extremely well, and, finally, the Panthers seem to play with some confidence on the field.

“The BC game was a turning point for our team,” McDonough said. “Collectively, we had a lot more fight than in past ACC games, like last year. We had grown our confidence, and it showed.”

Poucel would agree, but she has consistently been encouraging her teammates to believe in themselves. Her wish was finally granted this weekend.

“We’ve finally started to click, and now we have some confidence back,” Poucel said. “We know that we are perfectly capable of competing with these [ACC] teams and winning.”

All seems well in Pitt women’s soccer world at the moment, but the Panthers will be back to work tomorrow, as they shift their focus to North Carolina State, who awaits them for a match in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday. 

Pitt is tenacious right now, a feeling it hopes to maintain as the weekend approaches. It’s been an up and down ride for the Panthers so far this season, with the Syracuse win being their peak, but Miller knows it is time to make that effort stick.

“We want to get another win; we want to keep building,” Miller said. “Now that we have some confidence, we want to continue to get better and improve and see if we can do some more damage in the league. By no means are we going to sit on this win and sit back for the rest of the season and say, ‘we won one game.’ We will concentrate all of our efforts on North Carolina State, and hopefully we can go down there and make something happen.”

Pitt will visit the North Carolina State Wolfpack this Saturday, Oct. 4, with a kickoff set for 7:00 p.m.

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Panthers secure first ever ACC win thanks to Arvas’ goal