Panthers dominant in season opener, win 3-0

By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

After a strong finish to its preseason, Pitt men’s soccer opened the regular season with record-breaking dominance against Presbyterian College.

The Panthers finished the game on Saturday with 23 shots and a program record 19 corner kicks in a lopsided matchup against the Blue Hose, which ended 3-0.

“We did a lot of good things tonight,” head coach Joe Luxbacher said.

Presbyterian finished last season with a 3-15 overall record while going 1-9 in Big South conference play. They returned two of their biggest offensive threats from last season in senior midfielders Josh Carter and Ignacio Monchetti, who combined for 12 goals and four assists.

Considering the large number of players used in the Panthers’ three scrimmages, it was hard to predict which players would start for Luxbacher’s side.

We looked at the roles we wanted, the guys that were playing best and the guys that would come off the bench and give us a spark,” he said.

Pitt went with its custom 4-3-3 formation, starting nine returning players from the 2013 campaign. Patrick Dixon, Kevin Angulo and Matt Bischoff all made their first regular season start for the Panthers.

The Panthers dominated early, winning the possession battle with the opposition while registering six corner kicks and five shots in the first 10 minutes.

Presbyterian finally got a chance to counterattack as Pitt increased its numbers in the offensive half and Carter nearly scored on a deflected shot attempt.

The Blue Hose’s opportunity appeared to wake up the Panthers — they were finally able to capitalize on their eighth shot of the game in the 23rd minute, as sophomore Kevin Murray scored on a header off of assists by Ryan Myers and Brandon Kolczynski.

“Throughout the game, we were getting non-stop corners,” Murray said. “That one [by Myers] went right over my head. I turned around and saw Brandon headed it across. It was just a little too easy there.”

Pitt almost added to their lead a few minutes later, as midfielder Michael Tuohy hit the crossbar on a penalty kick after a Presbyterian handball inside the box.

After a few close opportunities from several of their 15 first half corner kicks, the Panthers converted off of a creative pass from forward Cory Werth, which was tapped in through the goalkeepers’ legs by midfielder Dan Prete.

“I think we had a lot of good movement up top and on the wings,” Prete said. “We put them under a lot of pressure, caused them to make a few mistakes and we capitalized on a couple of them.”

Overall, the first half was not much of a contest, as the Panthers outshot the Blue Hose 18-3 and set the program record for corner kicks in only 45 minutes of play. Their previous record was 12, which occurred most recently in 2006.

The second half was also largely uncompetitive, as the Panthers kept their stranglehold in possession and increased upon their gaudy first half numbers.

Australian transfer Patrick Dixon got himself on the score sheet via a penalty kick in the 53rd minute after a handball in the box.

There was a scary moment in the 76th minute when Presbyterian forward Mason Lewis went down with an apparent head injury after colliding with another player while leaping for a header. He was able to walk off the field under his own power.

Pitt goalkeeper Dan Lynd was tested more in the second half by the Blue Hose, who had six shots.

Pitt’s back line was still solid as Presbyterian attempted to amp up the pressure on the Panther defenders.

While the Panthers took a step in the right direction with the shutout victory, Luxbacher still believes they must improve before the start of the ACC season.

“We gotta clean some things up,” he said. “ACC level teams are the highest level you’re going to see.”

The Panthers return to action against William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., on Sept. 5 in the first of three games on the road.