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Panthers tie Niagara after late regulation goal by Purple Eagles - The Pitt News

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Panthers tie Niagara after late regulation goal by Purple Eagles

Dan+Lynd+leaps+for+the+save.+Paulina+Hagedorny+%7C+Staff+Photographer
Dan Lynd leaps for the save. Paulina Hagedorny | Staff Photographer

Dan Lynd leaps for the save. Paulina Hagedorny | Staff Photographer

Dan Lynd leaps for the save. Paulina Hagedorny | Staff Photographer

By Adam Richman / For The Pitt News

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The Pitt men’s soccer team fell victim Tuesday night to a strike from a former bearer of the blue and gold.

Squaring off against the Niagara Purple Eagles, the Pitt Panthers squandered a 1-0 lead with less than seven minutes remaining on a late goal by Niagara freshman Bautista Pedezert, who headed a corner kick from former Pitt Panther defender Ryan Myers. The final score was a 1-1 draw.

Entering the game, Niagara appeared to be the inferior team, with its 1-8-2 record paling in comparison to Pitt’s mark of 5-4-1. Pitt’s record is slightly misleading, though, as the Panthers still had yet to earn a conference victory in the ACC, a streak that has now extended into its third season.

In the first half on Tuesday night, the word sloppy epitomized the play of both teams. Neither squad could fire a shot.

Niagara controlled the advantage in terms of possession time — but only because the team slowed the tempo by holding the ball on its side of the field.

Whenever the Panthers intercepted any lengthy pass attempts by Niagara, they proceeded to give the ball away themselves when jumping out on the counterattack. Niagara’s inefficient play similarly discouraged head coach Joe Luxbacher.

“I thought we were flat all night,” Luxbacher said. “We were a step slow all night. It was just a flat performance.”

Pitt saw its first scoring opportunity in the 12th minute. A cross from the left side left the Panthers staring at a wide open net. Unfortunately for Pitt, freshman Matt Nozedar’s header crashed directly into the crossbar and Niagara cleared the ball out of the box immediately.

With 15 seconds left in the half, Niagara similarly floundered its first scoring opportunity. On a corner kick following a strong drive down the left side of the field, Niagara’s Niam Magnusson headed the ball toward the top right corner of the net. At the last second, though, Pitt goalie Dan Lynd snagged the ball with one hand and punched it out of bounds.

Luxbacher seemed at a loss for words over the sluggish first half.

“I don’t know why we were so slow,” Luxbacher said. “I honestly don’t know.”

Despite a slow first start, Pitt woke up after the brief halftime intermission.

Just a minute into the second, Pitt capitalized on a cross by Patrick Dixon, which ultimately turned into his fourth assist of the year. Midfielder Kevin Murray headed the ball into the top right corner of the net, notching the score at 1-0.

Despite holding this lead for most of the second half, Pitt played more conservatively throughout the match’s final 15 minutes. As a result, Niagara earned a few more scoring opportunities.

In the 70th minute, the Purple Eagles launched a series of corner kicks and crosses toward the middle of the field. Pitt put each attack to rest, out-wrestling and out-jumping the Purple Eagles. After a long 30 seconds, the Panthers managed to clear the ball out of their zone.

But with less than seven minutes left, Lynd finally faltered. Myers, who transferred from Pitt to Niagara after last season, launched a perfectly placed corner kick into the middle of the box, lofted at just the right angle. Midfielder Pedezert headed it into the top left corner of the net, tying the game at one and sending it to extra time.

Luxbacher noted that losing the lead at the end was because the team simply wasn’t ready for the game.

“I don’t know [why we played flat],” Luxbacher said. “Maybe I worked them too hard. I thought we were ready, but giving up needless fouls shows that mentally we weren’t.”

In extra time, both teams saw plenty of chances to score the golden goal. Nonetheless, the strong play by goalkeepers Lynd and Niagara’s Steve Casey set the tone, and the game ended as a 1-1 draw.

“I thought our players were one step behind the ball all night. We didn’t win tackles — just not overall what we hoped for,” Luxbacher said.

Pitt next matches up at home against Virginia Tech on Oct. 9, where the team will once again aim to earn its first ACC victory.

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Panthers tie Niagara after late regulation goal by Purple Eagles