Pittsburgh, Pa. — The excitement was clear in his voice as soon as he hopped on the phone. Randy Waldrum, head coach of the Pittsburgh Panthers, is happy to be back home.
After a long stretch on the road, the Pittsburgh Panthers women’s soccer team is back at Ambrose Urbanic Field for four-straight matches.
An an extremely unusual season due to COVID-19, there will be no fans in attendance. However, the Panthers are just happy to be back in a familiar setting, sleeping in their own beds and avoiding long bus rides.
Overall, the Panthers are 6-2 this season. They began ACC play back on Sept. 17 against Syracuse, claiming a 2-0 victory. Then, after wins against Navy and The Citadel, the Panthers jumped back into conference play.
Waldrum said that, despite the losses, there is plenty of growth to be noticed. He compared the Virginia game to two years ago, when, in Waldrum’s first year as head coach, the Panthers were stumped in a 7-0 loss.
“I’m proud of the growth of the team and how they stay in games and recover,” Waldrum said. “When we went down in the first half [against Virginia], we could have easily lost 4 or 5 to nothing. The players found a way to weather some of the pressure that was on. We found a way to get enough attacks going in the second half.”
Waldrum said that the Panthers had the chance to steal a game that “we shouldn’t even be stealing.”
In addition to on-field play, Waldrum said that, with a million things going on in the world — tensions with the upcoming election, COVID, injustice issues — the players were able to re-focus ahead of the Virginia Tech match.
“I just thought we were the better team. That hasn’t been the case when we played VT before,” Waldrum said. “We made some huge strides in terms of possession, shots on goal and shots. We were on the front-end of every stat available, except the scoreline. It was hard to take that loss because I thought we let that one get away.”
Panthers looking to capture more ACC wins
The Panthers aren’t win-less in the ACC, though.
Waldrum said that the next four matches at home are going to be big games for Pitt. Tomorrow, the team takes on Boston College. The history with Boston College is one that is special for plenty of players on the roster. Last year, Pitt won their first ACC game in over three years against BC.
“Boston College, even though they’ve lost both of their games, played two good teams,” Waldrum explained. “VT had lost their games until they beat us. You can’t go by the records. BC looks, from what we’ve seen on video, good. They look athletic.”
“This one is a big game on Thursday night. We need points, in some way, out of it.”
Then, the Panthers will head back to non-conference play against Navy. In September, the Panthers earned an overtime victory against Navy at GlennWarner Facility. Amanda West was the game-winning goal scorer. She has seven goals and three assists in eight games for the Panthers, which are all starts.
Waldrum hasn’t shifted his starting lineup too much. Against Virginia Tech, he made the decision to start Chantelle Parker over Anna Rico. However, he’s kept most positions intact in regard to starting lineups. In goal, Kat Robinson has started every game for the Panthers.
“With the backline in the goalkeeper, you don’t change too much with those,” Waldrum said. “Since Kat had the slight edge at the beginning [in an open goalkeeper competition with Caitlyn Lazzarini], I didn’t want to make a change there… I also think it’s due to the fact that we’ve been successful. I think she had such a great game at UVA. It was really hard to turn around and say ‘Kat you’re not starting.’”
— Pitt Women's Soccer (@Pitt_WSOC) September 29, 2020
Gearing up for more ACC play
The next four matches are going to come quick and fast for the Panthers, who will play four matches in the span of 11 days. Tomorrow the Panthers take on Boston College, and then it’s a quick turnaround on Sunday to face Navy. Then, it’s right back to ACC play with an Oct. 15 clash against Florida State.
Finally, to wrap up the homestand, the Panthers will host Miami on Oct. 18.
Florida State is currently ranked No. 2, and Waldrum knows that, even though the Panthers will be at home, it’ll be a tough match and a tough task. However, he’s confident in his players on the pitch. And, Miami he said, could be a big contest.
“Miami is one of those games that you know you can get a result if you put in a performance, but they’re good enough to beat you if you don’t,” Waldrum explained.
All four matches will air on the ACC Network. For times, take a look at the Panthers schedule.