Everything was going so well for Pitt’s men’s soccer team this year. A 5-0 start to the season, including victories over high-ranked ACC rivals Notre Dame and Virginia had the Panthers atop college soccer, with a #1 ranking in the United Soccer Coaches poll, the team’s first #1 rank in program history.
It came to a screeching halt on Wednesday.
Pitt’s Athletic Department announced that all soccer activities were “paused” due to “Covid-related protocols.” As a result, the final two regular-season games of the year, against Notre Dame on October 30 and Syracuse on November 6 have been canceled.
In a brief statement to the media, Pitt declined to detail whether it was a player, coach, or staff person that has tested positive for Covid-19. The team game no indication as to the number of affected players, nor have details of how the team will quarantine or when they will resume normal soccer activities been released.
Although Pitt’s regular season is done, the club still has meaningful soccer left to play in 2020. The ACC Men’s Soccer Championship begins on November 15, and as long as the club is able, they will begin the tournament with a quarterfinal match. The opponent and location are yet to be determined. The ACC tournament will be the last opportunity for soccer this year; the NCAA College Cup was canceled months ago out of an abundance of caution.
The derailing of Pitt’s season is certainly a massive disappointment for a team that is enjoying the most stellar season ever. Pitt’s men’s team was a perennial also-ran in college soccer until only a few years ago. Just last season, Pitt earned their first NCAA tournament bid in 55 years, and got their first College Cup win ever with a 2-0 victory of Lehigh. And this season, midfielders Valentin Noel and Veljko Petkovic, and defenders Arturo Ordonez and Bryce Washington have been singled out with player of the week awards by Top Drawer Soccer and the ACC.
Things can certainly get back on track if the Panthers can get a clean bill of health in the next 3 weeks. But once again we bear witness to the reality that sporting success in 2020 is just as much about epidemiology, social distancing, and providence as it is the result of quality dribbling, shooting, and passing.
image via Pitt Athletics Website