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Panthers search for first ACC victory at Boston College

By Kevin Wheeler / Staff Writer

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Coming off of three consecutive losses, the Pitt women’s soccer team has a familiar question it wants to answer.

After falling apart within the first 20 minutes of their loss against Duke last Friday — giving up three goals and digging themselves into an unrecoverable hole — the Panthers still wonder when they’ll be able to put together a full 90-minute effort. Pitt will attempt to do that on Thursday at 8 p.m. as the Panthers travel north to play Boston College.

This season has served as a learning experience for many of the young Panthers, 12 of them true freshmen. Hanna Hannesdottir, a midfielder, is one of them, and has attracted the attention of her teammates and coaching staff since preseason. Hannesdottir’s first ACC game was just another step in her climb to a starting position.

“Coach [Greg Miller] has always been about starting hard and finishing hard, and we’ve had a taste of what happens when we don’t start off as well,” Hannesdottir said. “[On Friday], we learned that to stay in this conference and get the results we want, we have to come out ready to go right when the whistle blows until the end of the game.”

Senior captain and defender Jackie Poucel has encouraged her teammates to play harder all season, and now, with the Panthers having begun conference play, energy is more important than ever.

“I think a lot of [effort] has to come from within,” Poucel said. “It has to be a commitment to yourself and your teammates that you will work every minute you’re on the field … Your intensity is a mentality. It’s not some talent others can’t possess; it’s a choice.”

In the meantime, Miller will keep trying to help his players progress and play with a sense of urgency.

“The coaching staff has to continue to remind [our players] of things they’re not doing quite so well, and we have to try and stay positive and compliment them when they’re doing things that are asked of them,” Miller said. “But, at the same time, I think they’ve got to have a little more personal responsibility and know how their performance, good or bad, is affecting the team.”

The Panthers have gotten back to the basics in practice this week. To spearhead the effort issue, Miller has incorporated a significant amount of actual playing into his routine. This will help the team become accustomed to playing hard every single day, as well as working on their transition attack after completing a defensive stop, which has been fairly weak this season.

Most importantly, however, Miller has reiterated the importance of avoiding getting down early in these conference games.

“We need to be more organized defensively, so we’re not giving up as many chances,” he said. “We want to be able to keep ourselves in the game for longer periods of time and give ourselves a chance to win games, instead of trying to come from behind. And then, you know, once we win the ball, let’s figure out a better way to get ourselves out and put more pressure on the opponent.”

Boston College (7-3 overall, 0-1 ACC) offers a bit of a different look for Pitt than Duke did last weekend. The Eagles may not have as much speed as the Blue Devils, but the level of intensity will not decrease. 

They don’t have as much depth as Duke, which could benefit the Panthers in the latter stages of this contest. Poucel hopes she and her teammates get started quickly.

“BC is a strong team,” Poucel said. “Similar to Duke, they have some very talented attacking players, but I don’t think their midfield is as talented, so hopefully that relieves some pressure on us in that part of the field. We expect them to be very good, but this is also a game that we can win.”

The trip to Massachusetts is the first of three consecutive road games for the Panthers. On Sunday, Pitt will head to Syracuse to take on the Orange, followed by a trip to Raleigh, N.C., to face the Wolfpack of North Carolina State next Saturday, Oct. 4.

This is the first time this season that Pitt will have more than a week away from home, but Miller remains optimistic.

“These are three winnable games,” Miller said. “The unfortunate part is that they’re all on the road, which makes things more difficult for us, but we have to give ourselves a chance. If you look at the strength of the rest of our schedule, then these are the games where we have more of a chance than the other ones. We like our chances; it’s just a matter of putting two halves of soccer together.”

According to Miller, many members of this team have played without confidence and carried a timid playing style with them on the field. Hannesdottir, as she emerges as one of the young leaders of the Panthers, is not one of those players. This freshman knows how critical this road trip will be for the Panthers.

“It’s really important for everyone to be ready to bring everything they have for these next couple games,” she said. “We have nothing to lose; we just need to put everything on the field every time, and it will start to show for us.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: It was announced that the start time of the game has changed from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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Panthers search for first ACC victory at Boston College