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Off to 6-1-1 start, Pitt women’s soccer makes program history

The+Pitt+women%27s+soccer+team+managed+only+two+shots+on+goal+in+a+4-0+loss+at+UCSB.+Jeff+Ahearn+%7C+Senior+Staff+Photographer
The Pitt women's soccer team managed only two shots on goal in a 4-0 loss at UCSB. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

The Pitt women's soccer team managed only two shots on goal in a 4-0 loss at UCSB. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

The Pitt women's soccer team managed only two shots on goal in a 4-0 loss at UCSB. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

By Jeff Carpenter / Staff Writer

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As they head into conference play next week, Pitt women’s soccer team is in good standing.

Make that historically good standing.

A pair of victories over Liberty and Akron, 2-1 and 3-0, respectively, have the team off to its best start in program history, at 6-1-1.


Liberty

The Panthers took on the Liberty Flames on Thursday night, with Women’s World Cup champion Meghan Klingenberg, a western Pennsylvania. native, from the United States National Team there to watch the game.

After Klingenberg talked with the team in the locker room before the match, the Panthers jumped out to a quick start, connecting on crisp passes and using their back line to provide an aggressive attack to generate offense.

However, the Flames struck first in the 38th minute, when a defensive miscue led to a small breakaway for Liberty.

Junior goalkeeper Taylor Francis turned a shot aside but was visibly shaken up on the play. On the ensuing corner kick, freshman forward Jaime Bouffard got Liberty on the board when she nailed a goal after a scramble in front of the net. Francis stayed in the game and finished with four saves.

Pitt head coach Greg Miller worked to motivate his players during halftime, especially the team’s top scorer, Taylor Pryce.

“I challenged [Pryce] at halftime, she had a little bit of a stomach ailment that she was dealing with, but I thought she was really able to change the game,” Miller said.

Miller’s challenge worked, as sophomore forward Pryce took a feed from sophomore midfielder Ashley Moreira and scored her third goal of the season in the 59th minute.

Pryce’s tally became a real momentum shift, as the Panthers had 13 of their 18 shots in the second half. Liberty goalkeeper Holly Van Noord was still able to keep the game close, however. The sophomore turned away many good chances, finishing with six saves.

The 5-foot-10 last line of defense already has a decorated career, after registering 14 shutouts as a redshirt freshman, a Liberty and Big South Conference record.

However, when granted a free kick in the 80th minute, Pitt freshman forward Juliana Vazquez took advantage of it. A game removed from her first career goal, Vazquez approached the set piece and bent her shot to the left corner of the net and away from the outstretched arms of Van Noord.

It was a big play from the first-year player, coming at a moment when the team’s primary free kick taker, senior forward Roosa Arvas, was on the bench.

The goal held as the decider, dropping Liberty to 1-4-1 on the year.

For Miller, the comeback victory was a nice display as the team gears up for games against much tougher opponents in ACC play.

“It’s a big tribute to our team, and another feather in our cap,” he said. “I thought we did a much better job tonight of managing the game.”


Akron

Pitt football wasn’t the only team that traveled to Akron this weekend — a day after Pat Narduzzi and company dropped Akron 24-7, the women’s soccer team solidified its fifth straight win, garnering a shutout over the Zips (3-2-1).

Junior captain Siobhan McDonough, sophomore Niki Hopkins and redshirt freshman Seyla Perez were all instrumental in the defensive masterpiece that saw the Panthers limit Akron to just three shots on goal, while generating 23 shots themselves. Francis was able to register her fourth clean sheet on the season.

“We set a goal about how we wanted to defend today,” Miller said. “There are still some things we allowed them to do, but overall I thought we did a good job.”

Freshman forward Kaylee Rabatin got on the board first when she buried a cross from another freshman forward, Sarah Krause, in the 29th minute, registering her second goal of the year on the header.

Krause kept pace with Rabatin after she scored her second goal of the year in the 70th minute. The goal came on a shot from inside the penalty box, set up by Rabatin. Arvas also assisted on the play.

Arvas then finished off Akron when she headed home a lofty through ball from junior defender Emily Pietrangelo in the 84th minute. Arvas’ goal and assist on the day helped her climb into sole possession of second place in the program’s history for points scored, with 50.

Only forward Ashley Cuba, who graduated in 2011, sits in front of her, with 51.

The weekend was another example of how well the freshmen have been stepping up on this year’s team. Freshmen have accounted for 31 of  the Panthers’ 59 points scored this year, meaning they are good for 52.5 percent of the team’s production.

The Panthers now have a five-game winning streak, with a lengthy break before their next matchup.

Pitt opens its ACC schedule against North Carolina State (4-4-0) at home on Sept. 20. The Sunday matinee kicks off at 1 p.m. at Ambrose Urbanic Field.

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Off to 6-1-1 start, Pitt women’s soccer makes program history