Three second half goals from set pieces erased a first half deficit and led Pitt to a 3-1 win at Ambrose Urbanic Field on Thursday night.
The Panthers (9-1-0, 2-0-0) came out strong to start the game with a Hurricanes team content on the road to sit in and absorb pressure. Pitt created several early chances and tested keeper Melissa Dagenais several times in the early going but the 6-foot-1 Canadian was more than up to the task recording five saves inside the first 10 minutes, including a pair of rocketed shots she tipped up over the bar.
Dagenais’s heroics to keep the game scoreless seemed to snatch the home team’s momentum away as Miami (3-3-2, 0-2-0) started to see more of the ball and ask a few questions of their own. Though an extended spell of possession didn’t yield any clear chances, the build-up eventually led to the opening goal from Chloe O’Neill when she crashed the box and deflected a Caitlyn Lazzarini goal kick back into the net in the 25th minute.
That the Panthers were trailing in a half where they ended up recording six of their 10 shots on target for the night to the Hurricanes’ 1 was a bit of a shock but coming out of the locker room the Pitt offense didn’t show any signs they would harp on it. Attacking the Miami back line, they were able to draw back to back fouls near the 18 less than four minutes in the half in almost identical locations that produced two goals. Ellie Coffield took both kicks, curling balls into the box that ended in a goal for center back Katie Zailski at 49:32 and Landy Mertz at 51:12.
“Whenever I score I feel like all my hard work has kind of paid off,” Zailski said. “I’m doing so much work trying to defend and not give up any goals but then when I can also help and produce goals it feels amazing, especially doing it in front of the home crowd tonight.”
Center back Ashton Gordon was also involved in both goals with a shot off the first corner that led to her center back partner’s goal off the deflection and on a pass through traffic to Mertz for her eventual game-winner. Gordon was also involved in the third goal that iced the game off a corner kick from Sarah Schupansky. Gordon won the header in the box and headed it to Leah Pais, who nodded it in at the 63rd minute mark.
After contributing on the offense end, Zailski, Gordon and the rest of the Pitt defense did well to limit Miami’s chances. Needing a goal to tie the game, Miami wasn’t able to register a shot the rest of the way.
Pitt will hit the road for four of their next five games with visits to Notre Dame on Sunday, North Carolina (Oct. 6), Duke (Oct. 9) and Boston College (Oct. 15) so it was important to keep their conference momentum going in front of a crowd of 505 people. Their lone home match over the next stretch will be Oct. 1 against Louisville.
“It’s super important,” Gordon said of the win. “If you can win everything at home, where we play our best, and steal some on the road it puts you in a really good place in the ACC standings.”