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Pitt honors seniors, triumphs, 3-2, over Liberty to close out non-conference slate

Photo courtesy Pitt Athletics

Pitt women’s soccer team (7-1-0) closed out the non-conference portion of its 2022 schedule with a 3-2 Senior Day triumph over Liberty (4-3-1) Sunday at Ambrose Urbanic Field.

“Today was a day to honor the seniors,” head coach Randy Waldrum said.

“You always want to leave your mark or your legacy when you go into a program. That particular group of seniors is the group that came in in 2019,  so they are the first group that has changed this program and are responsible for leaving that legacy of setting the standards higher, turning us from a 22-year losing program into a winning program. I shared with them that they’ll always be remembered as the group that kind of came in and changed history, so to speak, with where we are. We’re very appreciative to all of them for that.”

Leah Pais once again provided the Panthers with a spark off the bench. The senior from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, scored twice in a span of eight minutes in the first half to give Pitt a lead it never relinquished. She has now scored five goals in her last three games and tallied her second brace off the bench in three games.

 

“The major thing for me is that because I’m a senior, I’m passed that whole starting thing. To me, that’s just a statistic,” Pais said.

“If I get the chance to go into the game, I’m there to be the game changer. To me, that’s the best thing you can do, is to come off the bench and change the game.”

The Flames struck first as lvy Garner scored from bottom right of goal off an assist from Birdie Herman in the 11th minute.

Pais answered for Pitt in the 30th minute, scoring from bottom left of goal off a feed from Landy Mertz.

She then put the Panthers in front eight minutes later, this time scoring from top right of goal with Emily Yaple and Anna Bout providing the assists.

Ellie Coffield registered Pitt’s third goal of the game when she scored in the 55th minute on a free kick from top left of goal.

Liberty cut into the Panthers’ advantage in the 65th minute when Allison Hansford scored from top left of goal after a flurry of attempts by the Flames.

That’s as close Pitt let Liberty get, though, as the Flames did not get a shot off again in the final nine minutes.

Pitt outshot Liberty, 23-9, including a 9-5 advantage in shots on goal. Mertz tallied a game-high seven shots, including a game-high four on goal, while Sarah Schupansky (4), Keera Melenhorst (3), Pais (2), Coffield (2), Yaple (2) and Athalie Palomo (2) all recorded multiple shots. Caitlyn Lazzarini played all 90 minutes in goal for the Panthers, logging three saves.

“Transferring here was one of the greatest decisions I ever made,” Pais said. “Myself, along with the others, we’ve all grown into seniors that can lead on and off the field. I think the team identity has grown so much.”

Liberty was led by Hansford, who totaled a team-high three shots and two shots on goal. Ainsley Leja made a game-high six saves in 90 minutes of work but conceded all three goals for the Flames.

Pitt opens ACC play with a visit to Blacksburg, Va., on Friday to take on Virginia Tech. The matchup is set to get started at 5 p.m. ACC Network Extra will have live streaming coverage of the game.

PITT NOTES

  • Pitt wrapped up non-conference play with a 7-1-0 record for the second year in a row.
  • The Panthers improved to 3-1-0 all-time against the Flames.
  • Pitt is now 38-35-1 under the leadership of fifth-year head Randy Waldrum. After going 9-22-4 in the first two years of a massive rebuild, Pitt has gone 29-15 over the last two-plus seasons.
  • Leah Pais has racked up 40 points and 16 goals in her two-plus seasons as a Panther since transferring from Albany following her freshman year. Her five goals this season rank as the second-most on the team.
  • Ellie Coffied has scored three goals in the last five games, upping her career total to six.
  • Anna Bout has now compiled 14 career assists, which is good for the fifth-most in program history. She leads the Panthers with five on the season.
  • Landy Mertz and Emily Yaple have each tallied three assists this year, tied for the second-most on the team. Mertz’s 10 career assists at Pitt rank as the eighth-most in program history.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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