Late goals push No. 2 North Carolina over Pitt

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Late goals push No. 2 North Carolina over Pitt

Senior Andrew Wright battles against UNC defender David October.  Heather Tennant | Staff Photogapher

Senior Andrew Wright battles against UNC defender David October. Heather Tennant | Staff Photogapher

Senior Andrew Wright battles against UNC defender David October. Heather Tennant | Staff Photogapher

Senior Andrew Wright battles against UNC defender David October. Heather Tennant | Staff Photogapher

By Jared Greenberg / for The Pitt News

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The cold, drizzling rain on Friday night at Ambrose Urbanic Field might have been a sign of the game to come, where a major underdog in Pitt men’s soccer took on the No. 2 team in the country. While Pitt’s record may have just tallied a loss, the result was as close to a moral victory as a team can come.


The Panthers (5-4-1, 0-4-0 ACC) failed to upset the No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels (8-0-1, 4-0-0 ACC) in a gritty, defensive 2-0 loss. It was the second of a five-game home stand for the Panthers, who once again opened the game in a 4-3-3 formation. The difference, however, was that their opponent was undefeated, and it showed throughout the game.


However, the Panthers found a way to keep the game tied at zero through more than 84 minutes of the game. Head coach Joe Luxbacher applauded the effort from a Panthers squad that has been plagued by injury.


“I mean, the effort was great. We have three or four of our starters out of the lineup [as well as] two of our captains,” Luxbacher said. “We had a plan, and they tried to follow it.”


The goal finally came as the Tar Heels received a penalty kick in the 83rd minute for a foul called on sophomore midfielder Raj Kahlon, who received a yellow card on the play. Though the ensuing shot went wide right of the goal, Pitt goalkeeper Dan Lynd still guessed its trajectory correctly, and would have prevented the goal regardless.


“We worked on [penalty kicks] earlier in the season, so my confidence got built up and I saved one earlier in the year, so I just went with my gut and chose the right side.” Lynd said.


However, the Panthers’ fortune would change quickly afterwards, as Tar Heel midfielder Colton Storm buried a kick just two minutes later, from 12 yards out in the lower right corner. With the Panthers momentum removed, the Tar Heels struck again in the 87th, as redshirt junior Tucker Hume placed it in the lower right corner after receiving the ball from midfielder Alex Olofson, who earned the assist, at the top left corner of the box.


The Panthers’ performance in the first half was solid on the defensive side of the ball, as they held a Tar Heels team that scored four goals on then- No. 2 Notre Dame, to just one shot on goal. They disrupted the UNC attacking line, which has combined for nine goals between Hume and sophomore forwards Zach Wright and Alan Winn.


In the second half, however, the game opened up much more. North Carolina matched its first-half shot total of four in as little 12 minutes into the second half. Against such a highly-touted team, Pitt might have expected more offensive flurries as the game progressed.


But the Panthers kept repelling the Tar Heels’ onslaught, which seemingly grew closer and closer to a goal by the minute. North Carolina had a header that missed just wide right in the 56th minute. Defenseman David October took a shot that was just wide left in the 61st minute.


The Panthers had to generate offense — and they did, though ultimately with no success.


In what ended up being their only second-half opportunity to score a goal, the Panthers had a series of four corner kicks between the 69th and 71st minutes.


“We knew we probably wouldn’t have as much of the ball as they did. But we hung in defensively and didn’t make stupid mistakes, [and knew] that we would get our chances.” Luxbacher said. They did just that, showing from the pressure on goal from the corner kicks. North Carolina blocked two of the four right by the goal. Still, the Panthers ultimately could not convert on their biggest offensive opportunity of the game in that span.


The injury bug also bit the Panthers backline again, as junior defenseman Kevin Murray was forced to leave the game late, leaving the team with even less experience and depth at the position.


The Panthers will next face Niagara in their third of a five-game homestand. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Ambrose Urbanic Field.

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