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Pitt Women let it slip away against Wake Forest, 2-1

Pitt Women let it slip away against Wake Forest, 2-1

A dispiriting 2-1 loss against Wake Forest officially ended Pitt’s chances at the ACC postseason on Sunday.

The Panthers came into the match with a 10-6 overall record, and 3-5 ACC record, needing wins against Wake and NC State on Thursday on Thursday to get to 5-5. Had that happened, it would have opened the possibility that losses for Clemson, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech would allow Pitt to sneak into their first ever ACC Tournament as the sixth seed. But alas, it was not to be.

The Panthers took the lead in the 15th minute. Sarah Schupansky, cutting in from the left and wide, hit a shot that was blocked and turned into a soft chip shot that tapped – perhaps even gently nuzzled – the crossbar. As Wake’s goalkeeper’s momentum kept her falling away from the ball, there was  Pitt forward Amanda West, positioned directly in from of where it fell, to bop it with her head over the line to take a 1-0 lead.

Pitt absorbed pressure for the rest of the half and made it to the whistle, but came out flat in the second half. A pair of fouls in the box by Pitt defenders resulted in two back-to-back penalty kicks for Wake Forest. Panther keeper Kat Robinson dove to her right to make a scintillating stop on the first, and Pitt cleared it, only to trip up Wake’s attacker just seconds later. Robinson was not as lucky the second time, as she dove right while Wake striker and Iceland Youth International Hulda Arnarsdottir hit it straight and high and in the back of the net to make it 1-1 in the 51st minute.

Pitt defend a headed shot from Wake Forest. Pictured: L to R Kat Robinson, Emily Yaple, Ashton Gordon, and Sarah Schupansky.

On the ensuing kickoff, Pitt dumped it deep for a turnover, then watched as Arnarsdottir tore down the left side unmarked, fired a shot that hit the crossbar, and watched helplessly as Wake center forward Shayla Smart neatly tapped the rebound back into the net.

In just under 90 seconds, Wake Forest had three open chances on net, converting two, and Pitt’s 1-0 lead had become a 2-1 deficit.

The game became more fluid for the next 20 minutes as both teams found their way through the midfield to get into their opponents ends. Pitt had two excellent chances late in the match. In the 82nd, Sarah Schupansky pulled her defender away and to the left as winger Amanda West dove inside. Pitt leftback Athalie Palomo drove a perfect throughball in to West. Her shot was saved with no trouble by Wake keeper Kaitlyn Parks. A few moments later Pitt, again starting their attack on the left side with Palomo, pushed forward. As the defenders picked up the streaking attackers, they left Palomo with time and space, and the Texas-native lofted a long, hooking 40 yard shot onto frame. It rattled the crossbar and dropped in front of Pitt defender Kate McKay who hit it cleanly. But the ball landed squarely in the gut of keeper Parks. A few minutes of time wasting and long diagonals, and the match was ended.

The match against NC State on Thursday might be the final match of the season for Pitt’s women’s team, unless the NCAA selection committee gives them a bid to the DI Women’s College Cup, to be played in November and December beginning at the higher seeded team’s home field for the first few rounds. The final round of the NCAA Division I women’s College Cup is set to take place December 3-5, 2021 in Santa Clara, California. The selection show will take place on Monday, Nov. 8 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Pitt’s Landy Mertz defends in the first half against Wake Forest midfielder Sophie Faircloth.

The Pitt women have never been to the NCAA tournament, nor have they received an invitation to the ACC tournament in their seven years in the conference. Their last post-season tournament appearance was a 2010 Big East tournament match – a first-round defeat against Depaul.

Pitt’s resume for the post-season is certainly accomplished, but whether its good enough to slip in with an at-large bid is hard to say. Certainly a final-game win that puts them just outside of the top six in the ACC would help their case. Additionally, the team has a win over a nationally ranked opponent – #16 Oklahoma State, who they beat way back in August, and they were competitive and close in losses to ranked ACC powerhouse teams like Virginia Tech and North Carolina.

Certainly this match will be yet another learning experience for Randy Waldrum’s young team. The Panthers, with a lineup mostly composed of freshman and sophomores, will certainly have to ponder the speed with which this match disintegrated for them, as one terrible two-minute stretch of soccer turned what might have been an impressive win over a top ACC squad into a disappointing defeat.

All photos above credited to Mark Asher Goodman, @soccer_rabbi

Play-by-play, via @soccer_rabbi and @pitt_wsoc ‘s twitter accounts

editors note: this next one should say 71′

Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis. When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really. You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

Pittsburgh Division I College Soccer Schedule (Spring 2021)

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