The Pitt Women’s soccer team faced a fierce early season non-conference test Sunday at Ambrose Urbanic Field in Oakland and came up just a bit short on the day, losing to the TCU Horned Frogs 1-0.
Intense midfield pressure, imposing physical size, and relentless speed from TCU’s wide players eventually cracked Pitt’s formidable defense and exceptional goaltending. After a tightly contested nil-nil first half, the Horned Frogs came out of the half-time locker room hot and scored a goal at the start off the second frame. And although Pitt had a few good looks in the game, TCU was consistently the better side: probing the Panthers final third and creating dangerous chances from whistle to whistle while proving difficult to play through defensively as well.
Pitt Head Coach Randy Waldrum summed up the match thusly:
“I think part of this is learning for our team what it takes to play in the top 20. Obviously TCU’s a very good team. Credit to them, I think they were the better team.”
The early goings were rough for Pitt. TCU controlled possession through most of the first half, as TCU recorded 3 shots and 3 corners against the Panthers in the first 20 minutes, to Pitt’s 2 shots, zero corners.
The Frogs used an aggressive midfield press to rattle Pitt throughout the match, and it led to some shaky passes and subsequent turnovers. Forward Landy Mertz admitted that TCU’s pressure had the desired impact. Mertz said, “You notice this team was very fast and athletic, so that means you have less time on the ball. Normally I have time to open my body up – look – run at them. But today it’s … on my first touch, there’s two girls on me immediately. TCU did a good job of pressuring us and putting a lot of pressure on our midfielders as well.”
As the half progressed, the Panthers found some opportunities on long diagonal passes and with some solid midfield defensive play resulting in turnovers and attacks. In the final eight minutes of the half, Pitt recorded four shots and a corner. Three of the shots were on frame, requiring saves from TCU keeper Lauren Kellett. All three of those shots were recorded by Pitt Freshman midfielder Ellie Coffield.
The Panthers came out flat out of the half, conceding a goal to TCU in the 46th minute by midfielder Michelle Slater on an assist by striker Grace Collins to give TCU a 1-0 lead. For the next 10 minutes, TCU continued to cause Pitt problems, as the Horned Frogs took 5 shots, putting 2 on frame that forced tough saves from Pitt goalkeeper Katherine Robinson. Robinson ended the game with 7 saves overall. Neither of Pitt’s regular goalkeepers, Robinson or Caitlyn Lazzarini, had recorded more than 3 saves in their previous matches this year, and Mertz noted that Robinson was likely the team’s most valauble player on the day in keeping the match close. Mertz remarked “Robinson did really well today. She made a couple big saves. She’s a leader on the field.”
The final thirty minutes of the game saw the Panthers create several quick breaks, with a pair of shots from Freshman Sarah Shupansky in the 85th minute, followed by a long effort from Chloe Minas in the 86th that lacked bite and was easily saved. TCU did excellent work running to the corner flag and holding up the ball for the final ten minutes, and the final horn blew, signaling that the Panthers had picked up their first loss.
Pitt was without Striker Amanda West, the team’s leading scorer (5 goals this season) due to injury. The decision was made shortly before the match, and West is considered day-to-day for now. Waldrum noted that the absence of West was significant, but refused to use it as the reason behind the defeat. The head coach said “(Amanda West) is a goal scorer and a leader on the field, and it doesn’t help you not to have somebody that’s your all time leading scorer on the field. But at the end of the day, I’m certainly not going to use that as an excuse.”
This match will certainly serve the Panthers well in helping them to prepare for the onslaught of difficult opponents they will face in ACC play in just a few weeks. The physicality and talent of #6 TCU compares favorably with some of Pitt’s upcoming foes, like #1 Florida State, #2 UNC, and #5 Duke.
Rather than go away discouraged from this match, both Waldrum and Mertz feel really good about where their team is right now. Waldrum explained, “We’ll be fine. It’s one loss. We’re in a really good place. If you would’ve asked me in preseason if we would be 5 and 1 after playing the 16th ranked team and the 6th ranked team, ‘would you have taken it?’ I would have probably taken it.”
And Mertz told us “We know we didn’t play our best soccer. But we know we can play with anyone in the country, and today proved that.”
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Shots by Period 1 2 Total
Horned Frogs 8 12 20
Panther 8 6 16
TCU 1, Pitt 0
TCU – 46′ – Michelle Slater (Grace Collins, Olivia Hasler)
Yellow Card – 83′ – Brandi Peterson (TCU)
Yellow Card – 88′ – Kate McKay (Pitt)
Stephen Foster (R), Robert Fereday (AR), Saki Atsas (AR)
GK #0 Katherine Robinson
RB #11 Hailey Davidson
CB #19 Kate McKay
CB #32 Ashton Gordon
LB #17 Athalie Palomo
CDM #15 Chloe Minas
CM #4 Ellie Coffield
CM #12 Anna Bout
RW #6 Landy Mertz
CF #8 Leah Pais
LW #5 Sarah Schupansky
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Emily Yaple (62 min played)
Mackenzie Evers (23 min played)
Emily Harrigan (26 min played)
GK #1 Lauren Kellett
RB #4 Caylyn Hubbard
CB #19 Jenna Winebrenner
CB #5 Marz Akins
LB #15 Brandi Peterson
CM #16 Emily Hasler
CM #17 Gracie Brian
CM #12 Michelle Slater
CM #13 Payton Crews
FW #9 Grace Collins
FW #11 Messiah Bright
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