N.C. State brings potent offensive attack to campus

By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

Pitt men’s soccer plays this Saturday, hoping to right its three game homestand after drawing against an out-of-conference opponent.

The Panthers (2-1-2) face N.C. State in their second conference game with an opportunity to even their ACC record with a win. 

In their previous conference game, Pitt played then-No. 3 North Carolina, losing 3-0. Defensive miscues cost them in the second half. 

The Panthers have sought to improve upon their performance against UNC, attempting to shore up the defense while trying to build possession from the back, with good combination plays from the midfield. 

Their last effort, however, did not go as smoothly as they would have liked, as they drew with Lafayette on Wednesday night.

While neither team scored a goal, the Leopards outshot Pitt 20-12 in 110 minutes of action. 

The opposing shot total was concerning for coach Joe Luxbacher, and he expects more out of his back line. 

“[We have to improve] defensively, which sounds funny because we had a shutout, but the game was too wide open for my taste,” he said. “Obviously, we need to create some chances, but that will come off good defensive play.”

Some of Pitt’s problems defensively can be attributed to the absence of center back Julian Dickenson, who is injured. Stephane Pierre suffered an injury Wednesday night but returned to the game 10 minutes later.

The Panthers got into a wide-open affair with Lafayette for long stretches, with both teams creating chances and moving numbers forward. 

“We have to make sure we close the gaps between the midfield and the back line,” Pierre said. “We have to make sure we talk on the back line.”

Pitt was not prepared for the size and physicality of the Leopards and lost a lot of headers in the air. 

The Panthers ended the game on a cumulative 225-minute scoreless streak stretched across three games, bringing up memories of last year’s offensive woes. 

“What we need is more combination between the midfield and the strikers,” midfielder Romeo Charron said. “We also need better quality in the last third for these last passes. I’m sure it will come.”

Pitt will play a much different opponent in N.C. State. Not only are the Wolfpack a better team than Lafayette, but they bring an added element of athleticism that could challenge the Panthers’ defense.

“Very athletic and very technical, but I think we’ll be ready,” Luxbacher said.

N.C. State comes into the game having won three out of its last four games, including a victory over William and Mary, to whom Pitt lost earlier this month.

William and Mary lost its only road game of the season to Wake Forest, its lone conference matchup to this point. 

Forward Nick Surkamp and midfielder Travis Wannemuehler lead the Wolfpack offensively, combining for 13 points. Surkamp has scored three of N.C. State’s nine goals. 

Last season, N.C. State beat Pitt 1-0 in overtime. Pitt is still looking for its first win as a member of the ACC.