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Vildan Kardesler

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Pitt becomes first ACC team in 2019 to score over UNC in loss

Vildan Kardesler scored the first-ever goal against UNC this season in ACC play on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Matt Hawley/PITT Athletics.

Pitt becomes first ACC team in 2019 to score over UNC in loss

Pittsburgh, Pa. — Randy Waldrum is chalking up the positives.

He has a reason to. The second year head coach for the University of Pittsburgh watched his rag-tag team of freshman take on Anson Dorrance’s elite University of North Carolina team. Before the match began, Waldrum said that he wanted to frustrate the Tar Heels. Waldrum and his team were up against a tough task.

Why?

The Tar Heels have not given up a goal in ACC play yet this season. However, the Panthers ended the 470+ minute streak for UNC early in their match. It wasn’t superstar freshman Amanda West who scored, but she did provide the assist for Vildan Kardesler. The German international sprung up for joy, rushing over to her teammates.

The Panthers were able to keep the Tar Heels scoreless for the entire first half. However, a controversial goal gave North Carolina the equalizing goal in the 48th minute. Brianna Pinto ran forward and made contact with Panthers goalkeeper Amaia Peña, slipping the ball into goal. Despite the goalkeeper contact, the referee did not reverse the call.

Less than 10 minutes later, North Carolina found another goal, this time from Taylor Otto. The final dagger came from Rachael Dorwart, a native of Mechanicsburg, Pa., in the 76th minute.

Despite the loss, there’s plenty of positives for the Panthers. Waldrum wanted to give Dorrance’s team a game — and the Panthers did exactly just that.

I’m really, really proud of them,” Waldrum said. “To come and play a team like North Carolina, with their history, and take a 3-1 game, being in it all the way is what I’m really proud of… Today we created some chances and had some bouts where we kept the ball a little bit. These last few weeks, since we went up to Miami and Florida State, I think we’ve seen a lot of growth in our team.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day

The Panthers know Rome wasn’t built in a day. The wins will come for the Panthers, but progress is what’s important, too. Pittsburgh earned their first ACC win since October 2016 last Thursday against Boston College. However, Waldrum isn’t naïve. He knows that Dorrance and UNC is a whole different beast.

A program known for pushing out national team stars, UNC has a defender in Emily Fox who has three U.S. Women’s National Team appearances. After the match, Fox said that

“I think coming into this game ,we knew it was going to be difficult,” Fox said. “They just got a win, so we knew they were going to feel confident and be good. When the goal happened, we were a little shocked. But, obviously, we knew we had a lot of the game left. We recollected at halftime and figured out what we needed to work on. Then, we got three goals in the second half.”

Despite the three goals, Waldrum and Dorrance had nothing but positive things to say about Peña. The Panthers goalkeeper ended up finishing the match with nine saves.

“She’s magnificent,” Dorrance said. “I enjoyed her confidence. I think she’s been a wonderful presence in goal. She made it very hard for us. In the first half, I thought her saves were wonderful. Then ,I think she organizes her defense well. She’s another elite player on the Panther roster. She deserves credit for her performance.”

Meanwhile, Waldrum said that Peña has been great since he got to Pittsburgh.

“I think she’s really steady and a great leader for our team. The girls think a lot of her, respect her. I think one of the things she is, is that she has the experience to manage the game… It’s good to have someone with senior leadership right there.”

Dorrance tips his cap to fellow coach

Dorrance tipped his cap to Waldrum, his staff and the players. He had a simply analogy, too.

“His kids… fought like Panthers,” Dorrance said.

The 22-time national champion head coach said that he wants every team in the ACC to be elite. He’s excited to see how the Pittsburgh program is developing with Waldrum at the helm. The two coaches are legends in U.S. Soccer history. Dorrance is the all-time winningest college coach, while Waldrum is up there with more than 400 victories.

“I know what Randy’s been doing with this program, and it’s going to get better every year because of him,” Dorrance said. “It’s going to be a game-changer. I’m impressed with what Randy’s done in a short amount of time. His kids deserve all the credit. They made it hard for us. No goal was easy.”

What’s Next? 

Pittsburgh will have a few days of rest to shore up some injuries — Hollie Olding took a few hits, along with Athalie Palomo. Then, the Panthers will return home to Ambrose Urbanic Field to face North Carolina State on Saturday. The match will air on the ACC Network and ESPN+, airing at 7 p.m.

The sport of soccer is Rachael McKriger's area of expertise. McKriger covers Steel City FC for Pittsburgh Soccer Now and provides various columns, with occasional work with PITT Women's Soccer. Elsewhere, McKriger covers the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC for Pittsburgh Sports Castle. Her coverage expanded to Last Word on Soccer in March 2018, where she began National Women's Soccer League coverage and U.S. Women's National Team reporting. McKriger is a member of the official NWSL Media Association and the North American Soccer Reporters.

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