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Panthers cannot get win for seniors in last home soccer game - The Pitt News

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Panthers cannot get win for seniors in last home soccer game

Raj+Kahlon+%2811%29+scored+his+first+goal+of+the+season+to+lead+Pitt+to+its+first+win+under+new+head+coach+Jay+Vidovich.++Andrew+Shin+%7C++Staff+Photographer
Raj Kahlon (11) scored his first goal of the season to lead Pitt to its first win under new head coach Jay Vidovich.  Andrew Shin |  Staff Photographer

Raj Kahlon (11) scored his first goal of the season to lead Pitt to its first win under new head coach Jay Vidovich. Andrew Shin | Staff Photographer

Raj Kahlon (11) scored his first goal of the season to lead Pitt to its first win under new head coach Jay Vidovich. Andrew Shin | Staff Photographer

By Joe Rokicki / Staff Writer

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On Pitt men’s soccer’s senior night, the team sent off its veteran players the same way many of them entered the program — with a tough conference loss.

Pitt (5-9-3, 0-7-1 ACC) suffered a 1-0 loss at home against the Duke Blue Devils (9-6-2, 3-4-1 ACC) Saturday night, the team’s senior night and last home game of the year. Pitt is now 0-21-5 in conference play since joining the ACC in 2013.

Coaches and teammates recognized the seniors, including defender Andrew Wright and Stephane Pierre, midfielders Steven Machi and Patrick Dixon and goalkeeper Dan Lynd in a pregame ceremony as a light drizzle sprinkled over a crowd of approximately 400 fans.

On a night meant to be celebratory, this crowd saw more of the sad same — Pitt struggling offense and defensive breakdowns that allow crucial opposing goals. The team has grabbed only one win since Sept. 22, when it squeaked out a 1-0 double overtime victory over Robert Morris.

After the loss, Lynd said it’s hard knowing he won’t play another game at Ambrose Urbanic Field.

“[I’ve spent] a lot of minutes out here, a lot of ups and downs,” Lynd said. “It’s tough that it’s over.”

Lynd has produced a stellar 2015 season between the pipes, culminating in his one goal conceded against Duke despite a high volume of attack. His seven shutouts are tied for first in the ACC with Clemson goalie Andrew Tarbell. Lynd also recorded 49 saves on the year, fourth best in the ACC.

As a Panther, Lynd recorded 12 career shutouts and 223 total saves, which places him sixth in program history. He’ll have one more chance to add to those totals next weekend at Notre Dame.

Offensively, Pitt continued to struggle Saturday, registering just two shots throughout the entire match and only forcing Duke goalkeeper Mitch Kupstas to make one save.

“We’re in the games, but we’re not getting the results we’re looking for,” head coach Joe Luxbacher said.

The Panthers again did not get their desired result, despite keeping the game close against Duke. The Blue Devils’ potent offense entered Ambrose Urbanic Field averaging two goals per game, ranking 19th in the country.

While Pitt held the Blue Devils below that average, its offense could not capitalize. Duke senior midfielder Zach Mathers ranks fourth in the ACC in attacking with seven goals on the season.

Pierre and the rest of Pitt’s defense faced a steep challenge in containing Duke’s attack. Lynd said it’s a relief knowing he has a player of that caliber in front of him.

“Having Steph [Pierre] out there is huge. When he is 50 percent, he’s still one of our best options. He’s a very good player. Just having him back there controls things for us,” Lynd said.

The Panthers’ patchwork defense proved durable for much of the match — it endured 15 Blue Devil shots and five corner kicks on top of helping Lynd own his box.

However, a sloppy touch in the middle third led to a Panther turnover, and the Blue Devils capitalized in the 25th minute for the game’s only goal.

After Pitt lost possession, Mathers cleared into the offensive third and sent a through ball to Duke sophomore forward Jeremy Ebobisse on the left wing. Ebobisse placed a shot just above a diving Lynd on the right side of the net and marked the deciding goal for the Blue Devils.

“On that goal, we lost it in the middle of the field, and we got countered,” Lynd said. “We can’t lose it there. So just little things like that are what seem to be the story of the season. We’re so close, but that one mistake will get us.”

Head coach Joe Luxbacher said the team played too loose in the midfield, leading to multiple opposing breaks.

“We gave up that one in the first half on a lost possession in the middle third of the field, we’re always harping on that. We had some good chances and couldn’t put them away,” Luxbacher said. “They’re very good in the midfield. I thought early in the game we weren’t in it as much. As the game went on, we were better in the midfield and better overall.”

It was a step backward for the Panther attack, which achieved two goals on Tuesday afternoon against Harvard. But an inconsistent attack has been a consistent problem for this club through long stretches this season — Pitt has scored four total goals through seven games this month.

Sophomore Tobias Marshall-Heyman said the problems stem from transitional play.

“We don’t really get the men up [on attack], and the likelihood of getting a shot on goal with only one or two guys isn’t that much,” he said. “Two shots on goal is realistic in this match because we don’t get the numbers up. We have to play through the middle fast, then get the numbers up.”

Pitt will conclude its regular season on the road Saturday against No. 8 Notre Dame (8-3-5, 3-2-2 ACC). Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in South Bend, Indiana.

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Panthers cannot get win for seniors in last home soccer game