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Pitt women fall short of ACC tournament berth, but grateful for progress

Caitlyn Lazzarini started in goal for the injured Amaia Pena last night against Virginia Tech. Photo courtesy of Matt Hawley/Pitt Athletics.

Pittsburgh, Pa. — After a season filled with memories and improvement, the Pittsburgh Panthers women’s soccer team ended their 2019 journey last night. Hosting Virginia Tech on a cold, rainy and windy evening, the Panthers were in the hunt for an ACC Tournament spot.

However, they needed some help from other teams.

In the end, the Panthers did not clinch a berth to the tournament, and they did not produce a win last night. However, Panthers head coach Randy Waldrum spoke highly of his group’s performance. Pittsburgh gave up an early goal to Virginia Tech in the 6th minute off a corner kick. Emmalee McCarter took a free kick and got a little help from the wind to put the ball past freshman goalkeeper Caitlyn Lazzarini.

“I have to watch the replay, but it looked like maybe the wind caught the ball and curled it in directly off the corner,” Waldrum said. “I think Caitlyn may have been a step forward a little closer… Having said that, I think it had a little more to do with the wind. After that, I thought we really kept them from creating too many chances outside of some free kicks.”

Waldrum also applauded the play of Lazzarini, a freshman from Nazareth, Pa. In for the injured Amaia Peña, who jammed her fingers during the Clemson match, Lazzarini made two saves to deny Kelsey Irwin and another shot from McCarter.

“I thought Caitlyn played really well for herself, especially as a young freshman hopping in goal in such a big game,” Waldrum said.

Pittsburgh had chances as well, with Amanda West recording two shots on goal. However, both were saved by senior Virginia Tech goalkeeper Mandy McGlynn. However, Rachel Rasins had the best chance of the second half, picking up a volley in the box and smacking it off the right post with only five minutes left.

Plenty of positives for the Panthers

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Waldrum knows that.

The second-year head coach saw plenty of positive moments for the Panthers. After not compiling an ACC win since October 2016, the team turned that around on Oct. 10, with their first ACC win under Waldrum against Boston College. West scored the game-winning goal after Juliana Vazquez nabbed the opening tally.

Just three short days later, the Panthers hosted North Carolina. Entering the match, UNC did not give up a single goal in ACC play. However, Vildan Kardesler broke that streak with the match’s opening goal. The Panthers went on to lose the match, but Waldrum applauded the fight that the Panthers produced.

Pittsburgh also picked up a second ACC win against North Carolina State, with goals from Celia Lopez and Kardesler.

“I think that we were picked to finish toward the bottom,” Waldrum said. “Some picked us last, and some picked up next-to-last.I think we surprised a lot of people this year. And, I think what is shows us is that there’s a bright future here”

Waldrum said he has a talented and “great” recruiting class coming next year.

“It’s only going to add talent we have with these young freshman,” Waldrum said. “The future looks really bright. I told the girls after the game that we’ve tied five games in the ACC this year. That tells me that we’re at least kind of in the middle of the pack, fighting with those teams competing for NCAA berths and ACC Tournament berths. We hung right in there this year. It really bodes well to where we’re heading.”

Who’s in the ACC Tournament?

With the Panthers loss, the final spot in the ACC Tournament was up for grabs between Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. The Hokies needed Notre Dame to lose in South Bend, Indiana, to Wake Forest. However, the Fighting Irish nabbed a 2-1 victory at home, putting them in the eighth place spot. They’ll face North Carolina.

Below is the official bracket.

The sport of soccer is Rachael Kriger's area of expertise. Kriger covers high school and women's soccer, with occasional work with Pitt Women's Soccer. For the last five years, she has been the Color Commentator for the Pitt Women's Soccer program. Elsewhere, Kriger contributes for MLS Multiplex, part of the FanSided network. She formerly wrote for Equalizer Soccer and Last Word on Soccer. Kriger is a member of the official NWSL Media Association and the North American Soccer Reporters, serving as the NASR's President after two years in the role of Communications Director and Vice President.

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