Clean sheet: Men’s soccer defense shines over weekend in interstate matchups

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Clean sheet: Men’s soccer defense shines over weekend in interstate matchups

By Joe Rokicki / Staff Writer

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Two games, two shutouts.

That’s how the Pitt Panthers men’s soccer team began its regular season this past weekend during an eastern Pennsylvania road trip against Lafayette and Lehigh.

The Panthers defeated the Lehigh Mountain Hawks 3-0 Sunday afternoon. Senior midfielder Patrick Dixon had two goals and freshman defender/midfielder Curren Page added a third goal — the first of his collegiate career — in the 75th minute.

Pitt tied Lafayette 0-0 after a physical double overtime match on Friday, which helped the Panthers establish an aggressive tone in the early minutes of Sunday’s contest.

“I think we played hard,” Dixon said. “It’s frustrating not coming away with something, but we knew we had to keep the intensity up, get chances and go from there.”

The Panthers outshot the Leopards 8-7. Dixon, junior midfielder Romeo Charron and sophomore midfielder Raj Kahlon combined for six of the eight shots.

“When a guy makes a play like that, all of the sudden everyone starts feeling better”

Despite their narrow offensive advantage, the Leopards played a physical game and controlled much of the pace.

“They’re a good team and they’re difficult to play because they are physical and because of their style,” head coach Joe Luxbacher said. “They don’t let you get settled. They just drive balls in and you have to fight for every ball. I don’t think we were quite ready for that.”

But despite the lack of preparedness, Pitt managed to hold on and play to draw.

“It was a good, hard-fought game,” Luxbacher continued. “We got a clean and even shutout, but we want to score goals and get a win. The guys gave good effort.”

Luxbacher knew offense was a weakness this off-season, making it his focus in recruiting. Senior goalie and captain Dan Lynd attributed the offensive droughts last season to a lack of cohesion within the group and an inability to play a full 90 minutes.

Although the Panthers were scoreless through 110 minutes of play after Friday, their defense — along with two timely saves from Lynd — preserved a draw.

Heading into Sunday’s matchup against Lehigh, the Panthers knew their intensity and offensive consistency was important to establishing a tempo and netting their first goal.

Pitt News File Photo

Dan Lynd now has 10 career shutouts at Pitt.

“We believed in ourselves, everyone had the energy,” Dixon said. “[We knew] it was going to happen.”

Finally, after 175 minutes of scoreless soccer — it happened.

Dixon netted a loose ball from sophomore midfielder Jack Dickens originally intended for freshman forward Tobias Marshall-Heyman on a pass that sailed overhead, through the box.

“When a guy makes a play like that, all of the sudden everyone starts feeling better,” Luxbacher said.

Dixon scored again within the 71st minute to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead over the Mountain Hawks.

With 15 minutes left in regulation, Page scored a long 30-yard goal from traffic to make the score 3-0. It was his first collegiate goal.- Page described it as the best goal he’s scored in his life.

Pitt outshot Lehigh 19-7. Dixon led the Panthers with five shots and two goals, and Marshall-Heyman collected two assists as well.

Lynd recorded one save in his tenth career shutout, which ties him for eighth best in school history.

“We were great from every position,” Lynd said. “We were taking risks in the final third [of the game], which was nice to see. Our back line was solid, our midfielders and forwards were really locked in – scoring three goals gives us a lot of confidence.”

Ironically though, Lynd didn’t have to finish his own shutout, as junior defender Stephane Pierre bicycle kicked Lehigh’s final shot out of the box to preserve the clean sheet. Pitt returns home for two games next weekend against Eastern Illinois and St. Peter’s.

The Eastern Illinois game starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

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