Women’s soccer facing challenge of Demon Deacons on Thursday


Sophomore Seyla Perez and the Panthers are still searching for their first regular season win. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

By Jeff Carpenter / Staff Writer

Pitt women’s soccer has veered away from most obstacles it’s faced this season.

While the wins have accumulated, the obstructions on the horizon are only growing larger, as the Panthers’ schedule strength improves heading into ACC play. The next foe for the Panthers is Wake Forest, which enters Pittsburgh with a 4-3-2 record, searching for its first road victory.

“I don’t think this team has come to their ceiling yet, there’s still a lot of growing to take place,” Pitt head coach Greg Miller said. “Every time we’ve raised the bar, they’ve met the challenge.”

Last time out, the Panthers shut out North Carolina State 2-0 en route to their first ACC home win. Home field advantage has been kind to the Panthers, contributing to their 7-1-1 record.

They sit 4-0-0 at home, with all those victories coming within their last five games. Thursday’s contest versus Wake Forest is another chance for Pitt to add to its unblemished home record before heading to Louisville (3-4-1) on Sunday.

The win over NC State was a historic one for the program, as it saw senior forward Roosa Arvas notch an assist, earning her sole possession as the all-time program points leader. Powered by her three goals and four primary assists this season, she now has 52 career points.

Arvas’ corner kick found the head of freshman defender Seyla Perez, who found the back of the net for her first goal of the season. Perez has thrived playing time on defense for the Panthers this season.

At the start of the season, Pitt’s back line was inexeprienced. But nine games in, the unit has proved to be a stifling shutdown group. The Panthers have allowed just four goals this season, producing .43 goals against average and placing them second in the ACC. Shutouts by junior goalkeeper Taylor Francis have powered five of the team’s seven wins.

“We really missed Seyla last year,“ Miller said. “Despite her youth and inexperience, she is just such a presence in our back line. She has the talent and the athletic tools to solve a lot of defending problems and also kick-start our attack.”

Jarena Harmon also buried a goal in Sunday’s victory, pushing her total on the season to five. The freshman forward’s offense has provided a surge to the Panthers. Her five goals lead the team, as do her 11 points.

“I feel like the game is coming a bit more easy. I’m more comfortable, especially with my teammates and the coaching staff, and playing at a high level,” Harmon said.

Harmon also reflected on the mood of the team, noting that they are more capable and comfortable than in years past. Even with the hot start, they still feel they have not accomplished enough.

“I think we need to continue to prove ourselves, and we’re doing so in a great fashion,” Harmon said. ”Not only winning, but dominating on the field, both in the attack and the defense, really helps the team and its confidence.

The team faces a short week in preparation of Wake Forest.

“We need to make sure we’re recovered and our bodies are back to 100 percent,” Perez said.

The Demon Deacons will try to grab their first road victory of the season on Ambrose Urbanic Field’s turf. It’s an adjustment for Wake Forest — compared to the Bermuda grass they operate with in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Wake Forest has jumped out to the right start in conference play, defeating a Miami squad 3-0 Sept. 18. The team came out two days later and dropped a 2-1 decision to UNC-Wilmington, a non-Power Five conference team.

A mental lapse could hinder the Demon Deacons against the Panthers as well, as there’s a chance they could get caught looking ahead. Wake Forest will leave Pittsburgh to take on the No. 1 team in the nation, North Carolina, back home just three days later.

The Panthers travel to Louisville on Sunday, where they will meet a team that has been unable to produce any wins versus quality opposition.

A win over Wake Forest on Thursday would push the Panthers’ win streak to seven games and would be another step in cementing the team’s legacy as one of the best women’s soccer teams the Panthers have fielded. However, it’ll take a continuation of the strong effort the team has displayed thus far to have that come to fruition.

Kickoff at Ambrose Urbanic Field for the matchup versus Wake Forest is Thursday at 7 p.m.

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