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Pitt continues hot start, stay perfect in ACC with 1-0 win over Louisville

Samiah Phiri
Photo courtesy Pitt Athletics

There was one winning “football” team in Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

While the Panthers football team struggled at Heinz Field, and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds fell at home to San Antonio, the Pittsburgh Panthers women’s soccer team picked up the slack. The Panthers remain undefeated in ACC play with a 4-0 start, after a 1-0 win against Louisville.

It was the third time that Pittsburgh defeated Louisville. The last time that the two sides met was in September 2018, with Louisville earning the win. This time, Pittsburgh extracted their revenge on the Cardinals. Samiah Phiri was the hero for the Panthers, scoring off a header with about 12 minutes left to go in the second half.

Pittsburgh and Louisville fought in rainy conditions, with the weather letting up with about five minutes left. Phiri scored off one of the Panthers’ nine corner kick attempts, with Sarah Schupansky recording the assist.

“I usually don’t score off corners, so this was surprising for me,” Phiri said after the game. “We’ve been working on set pieces for a long time, and we want to capitalize on them. We got one, and I put it away like I was supposed to.”

After the game, head coach Randy Waldrum called the match “entertaining.”

“It was hard with the conditions and with the officiating, and they’re a really good team defensively,” Waldrum said. “They’re similar in a lot of ways to Miami defensively, but I think they’re more dangerous offensively on the counter. They can certainly pose some problems, which they did tonight.”

As for his goal-scorer, Waldrum said that the goal was overdue for the transfer Phiri, who came to Pitt from Oklahoma State this year.

“It was great for Samiah because she’s been so good for us and the goals haven’t been coming,” Waldrum said. “She’s gotten some assists and has been dangerous in the box for us all season. So it’s nice to see her get rewarded. It’s a big goal to get the win, so I’m proud of her.”

Leah Pais, who leads the team in goal with seven after injuries to Chloe Minas and program leading scorer Amanda West, was moved from the front to the defensive side of the midfield after a head injury to defender Katie Zailsky forced her out of the game in the second half.

“We had to pull Leah from the front line and put her in midfield to things sorted out there, so we didn’t get to use her up front the way we would have liked to,” Waldrum explained. “That’s the one thing that has carried us after the Minas and West injuries, the depth of our team.”

“We’ve gotten really good players that can come in and get the job done.”

Young leadership shines for Panthers

After a lull of a first-half, Waldrum said he walked into the locker room and saw Ellie Coffield speaking to team about picking up the pace.

With captains Minas and West injured, Coffield — only in her second season with the Panthers — has been given the captain’s armband. Waldrum called her the “captain of the future” for the Pitt program in our broadcast media call earlier in the week.

“I think you come in and by the time the coaching staff gets in there and what they want to say, you walk in the door and a lot of it has already been said,” Waldrum said. “That’s great leadership. That’s kind of been unusual, too, when you lose two captains to season-ending injuries. You’d think that would devastate us playing wise, but also with their leadership.”

“But players like Ellie and Ashton Gordon, our two captain’s now, along with Leah Pais. Still in the locker room, Amanda and Chloe are fantastic. Chloe had the bench up and yelling and cheering for us… It takes the whole group.”

What’s Next for Pitt?

The Panthers have a huge task coming up, facing North Carolina on the road this Thursday.

Waldrum said that the hot start in the ACC, and overall, has given the Panthers plenty of confidence heading into North Carolina. He’s also knows what the continued wins mean for Pitt’s postseason hopes.

“I think the fact that we’ve got four wins out of four in the ACC, that’s our goal, it’s what we shoot for, is good,” Waldrum said. “It puts us one step closer to the ACC tournament and the NCAA Tournament. We’re not there yet, and we need some wins for sure to talk about that more seriously… I don’t know, before the season, if a lot of people expected us to do all of this. It’s been a great start.”

The sport of soccer is Rachael Kriger's area of expertise. Kriger covers Steel City FC for Pittsburgh Soccer Now and provides various columns, with occasional work with Pitt Women's Soccer. Elsewhere, Kriger is the co-managing editor of Last Word on Soccer and the social media coordinator and lead Liga MX Femenil writer for Equalizer Soccer. She is a member of the official NWSL Media Association and the North American Soccer Reporters, serving as the NASR's Vice President after two years in the role of Communications Director.

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