The Pitt Women’s soccer team were in full control from whistle to whistle as they closed out the 2020-21 season in style with a 4-1 win over the University of Kentucky. The Panthers got four goals from four different players – with two goals in the first half and two in the second. Emily Yaple, Celia Lopez, Leah Pais and Landy Mertz all found the back of the net – and the goal for Lopez was her first as a Panther. Amanda West was a nuisance all game for Pitt as she slashed into the box from diagonal, wide, and central locations, drawing and evading defenders to create chaos. West finished the game with three assists.
For most of the game, the Panthers controlled possession and effortlessly strung together passes as they marched relentlessly upfield. Kentucky, meanwhile found themselves defending and clearing time and time again, and generally resorted to long passes up to the forwards in an effort to produce something.
“We grew a lot this year,” said head coach Randy Waldrum. “We’ve grown, and we’re disciplined. And talent-wise, year-over-year, we’re just getting better and better.”
Midfielder Chloe Minas did an effective job of suffocating the midfield an closing down space at the base of the midfield three. “Minas is our engine. She controls the tempo of the game for us.”
Waldrum praised the growth and contributions of Sophomore transfer Landy Mertz this spring. “Landy adds a whole different dimension to this team.” Mertz’ work down the right side of the attack made it hard for Kentucky’s defenders all afternoon. Waldrum also noted the growth and maturity of Emily Yaple and the overall outstanding season of the team’s leading goalscorer, Amanda West. West finishes her Sophomore season with 13 goals in 16 games, leading the ACC in both overall goals and goals per game (0.81 gpg).
Despite finishing 2021 with 11 wins and 5 losses, the best season in team history, the Panthers have their sights set still higher for 2021-22. The team can surely improve on their 3-5 ACC record: they had a chance to beat three different nationally ranked teams this past year, #10 Virginia, #2 Florida State, and #3 Clemson, but fell short each time. Coach Waldrum thinks the incoming freshmen and transfers will be a massive contribution to the team, and added that 10 of the 11 have already been on campus training with their teammates during the spring. Highly touted local players Ellie Coffield, Sarah Schupansky, Kaitlyn Kaufmann and Mackenzie Evers are part of that recruiting class.
“It’s a really talented group. There could be half of those players starting.”
Next year will hopefully at least be more stable in women’s college soccer. The College Cup for bothe the men and the women was cancelled, and many other conferences, including the Big 10 and Pac 12 didn’t play soccer at all due to Covid-19. NC State cancelled most of its matches, and teams in the ACC varied widely in their ability to schedule non-conference opponents at all; while Duke put together a full slate of 16 matches, Syracuse played just their in-conference matches and that’s it.
Despite the challenges, Pitt will certainly look back on this year as a big step forward. The team earned some real respect in the ACC, not to mention getting their first-ever national ranking. Finishing on a bright note against Kentucky is a nice way to start the offseason, and likely will portend even better things to come for the Panthers.
Final: Pitt 4, Kentucky 1
88′ KENTUCKY GOAL, Jordyn Rhodes, 4-1 Panthers. The assist by Julia Grosso. Rhodes finds space for a shot and it gets past Pitt GK Lazarrini.
85′ PITT GOAL, Landy Mertz, 4-0 Panthers. Amanda West centers it to Pais, Kentucky clears it out and the ball bounces straight to a streaking Landy Mertz, who smacks it square, kissing the underside of the bar. The announcer declares there’s an assist on that play from West, but it seemed to me more like an errant defensive deflection.
81′ Despite the blowout, Coach Randy Waldrum will elect to keep most of his starters on the field it seems. To be fair, all but one of the available subs are freshmen.
80′ Landy Mertz dribbles from the wing into midfield; UK’s Julia Grosso challenges and collides hard. Time called, she’ll come off with the trainer. Alex Fava will come on to replace her; for about 30 seconds.
77′ SUBSTITUTION; Rytel, Bout, Sinnott off, Veltri, Yaple, Pais on.
74′ Shot from the right side for Kentucky’s Miranda Jimenez. It’s right at GK Lazzarini and she catches it with ease.
70′ Chloe Minas has been absolutely everywhere this half – covering ground to snuff out attacks or just close passing lanes just as they open. In a 3-0 blowout you won’t often notice your D-mid, but I do, for what it’s worth.
68′ Updates coming a little slower now because I can’t feel my hands. Press box is outside and the wind is chilly. (No excuses Goodman! Fight it off!)
67′ SUBSTITUTION, Rytel on for Pitt.
64′ SUBSTITUTION; Sinnett on for Leah Pais.
57′ PITT GOAL, Leah Pais, 3-0 Pathers. Ball bouncing around in the box from 12 yards out comes to Leah Pais who swings a half volley shot at it – right past the diving keeper for a goal. Kate McKay and Athalie Palomo credited with assists.
46′ Second half is underway. Starting XI are back on.
HT – Pitt look in control of this match. Expect them to press for a few more to start the 2nd half in hopes of letting the bench a rare opportunity for minutes.
42′ PITT GOAL, Celia Lopez, 2-0 Panthers. Goal assisted by Amanda West. Amanda West picks up the ball at the left side. Anna Bout makes the run to drag away a defender, and West dribbles across and through the 18 yard box. West’s long run ends 10 yards from the keeper with a tap to Celia Lopez who lofts it over her head for the Panther’s seocnd goal of the afternoon.
40′ SUBSTITUTION; Anna Bout and Landy Mertz come off, Sinnott and Rytel come on.
38′ Palomo lifts a diagonal cross from the left for Dixon Veltri, who gets a head on it but just deflects it out – ball was a bit high to make solid contact. Veltri is the team’s lone Senior, playing in what might be her final game for the blue and gold.
34′ SUBSTITUTION; Pais and Yaple come off, Dixon Veltri and Celia Lopez come on.
33′ PITT GOAL, Emily Yaple, 1-0 Panthers. Assist with a pass from Amanda West. Panthers lead.
32′ Landy Mertz dribble-drive and shot, high and wide to the far post.
28′ A long diagonal comes into the box for Caitlyn Lazzarini to claim; maybe the second or third time the Pitt GK has touched the ball at all.
26′ The soccer chanting might be Serbo-Croatian. I dunno.
23′ Anna Bout forms a triangle with Palomo and West to drive the ball into the final third, but UK knocks it away.
19′ They’re playing piped-in crowd noise from what I think is probably an early-2000s Galatasaray Champions League match. It ain’t English. This audio will probably haunt my nightmares for a few weeks.
17′ Kentucky’s Hannah Richardson dribbles down the left and creates havok,and gets a shot agains Mackenzie Edwards, high.
15′ Palomo to West; dribble drive, shot. Palomo to West; dribble drive, shot. I think we’re seeing a pattern here.
13′ Kentucky finally get possession and make a run into the opposing half. It’s maybe the third prolonged possession they’ve had at all. Ends with a shot from UK’s Julia Grosso, high.
11′ Corner for Pitt
9′ Foul and free kick for Landy Mertz but she puts it wide left.
7′ Shot from Amanda West with her left as she attacks down the left side; kind of a hopeful floater that goes over that bar. No dice.
6′ Panthers with most of the possession in their normal 4-3-3. Moving things from central midfield up to the attacking wings with good pace.
1′ We’re underway! The front three of the Panthers are Amanda West at LW, Leah Pais at CF, and Landy Mertz at RW. Emily Yaple and Anna Bout are playing as twin-pivot attacking mids, Chloe Minas is the deep-lying midfielder. Across the back, left to right, it’s Athalie Palomo,
Starting XI – Panthers
GK – #1 – Caitlan Lazarrini
D – #3 – Mackenzie Edwards
M – #6 – Landy Metz
F – #8 Leah Pais
F – #9 – Amanda West
M – #10 – Emily Yaple
D – #11 – H Davidson
M – #12 – Anna Bout
M – #15 – Chloe Minas
D – #17 – Athalie Palomo
D – #19 Kate McKay
Coach: Randy Waldrum
Pitt women’s soccer (10-5-0) concludes the long, strange 2020-21 season at home against the University of Kentucky (1-5-3) at 2 pm. The game can be streamed on ACC+ via ESPN+.