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Pitt women’s soccer defeats No. 3 North Carolina in Extra Time to move onto ACC Semis

Pitt women's soccer Landy Mertz

In a tense battle against one of the best teams in the country, Pitt women’s soccer pulled off a 2-1 win in overtime on the road against No. 3 North Carolina in the First Round of the ACC Tournament Sunday night.

The Panthers (14-4-1) (W-L-D) earn their first ever victory in the ACC Tournament, in just their second ever year playing in it. It is also their first ever victory over the Tar Heels (10-1-8) in the all-time series, as they lost all seven previous matches, and it is the highest ranked win for the Panthers in program history. The loss is also the first on the season for the Tar Heels and their first loss at home since a 3-2 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers on Sept. 17, 2022.

Pitt started out the attack as junior forward Samiah Phiri and first-year midfielder Deborah Abiodun both had shots within the first six minutes of the match.

After neither team created many chances for the next 15 minutes, the Panthers almost found the back of the net in the 23rd minute. Fifth year defender Ashton Gordon took a free-kick from the halfway line and put it into the box. A UNC defender headed it up and then Abiodun made a great header herself on goal, only for redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Emmie Allen to make a great diving save to keep the match level.

North Carolina started to make more consequential attacks towards the end of the first half. First-year forward Olivia Thomas turned at the top of the box, took a touch and then shot at Pitt sophomore goalkeeper Ellie Breech, who was able to gather the shot in the 34th minute. Breech made another save, as North Carolina junior forward/midfielder Bella Sember shot from distance right at her soon afterwards in the 37th minute.

The Tar Heels had the best chance coming out of halftime. Redshirt sophomore midfielder/forward Ally Sentnor made a good tackle on Abiodun and then passed it to sophomore forward Tori Dellaperuta in the box. Dellaperuta moved to her right, but sent her shot high for a goal kick in the 48th minute.

The Panthers used an onslaught of corner kicks that, amazingly didn’t result in a goal. Junior forward Sarah Schupansky found Abiodun for a header, but Allen dove to make a save with her right glove in 60th minute. Schupansky put in back-to-back corner kicks in the 63rd minute that forced Allen to make diving save towards the top of goal.

Fifth year forward Amanda West had a good chance for Pitt herself in the 72nd minute, but her shot deflected right into the hands of Allen.

Pitt would eventually take the lead just a minute later, which started with an interception in midfield from Abiodun. She would then find fifth year midfielder Landy Mertz on the right wing. She passed it to senior midfielder Chloe Minas, who passed it quickly to Phiri, who then put a good through ball to Mertz sprinting down the right flank. Mertz cut it back onto her left foot and put in a great cross to junior midfielder Ellie Coffield, who only had to move a little bit back to put her header into the bottom right corner for the opening score.

Mertz almost doubled the lead in the 74th minute, with a long distance shot, but Allen jumped up to make the save before it crept into the top right corner.

North Carolina tied the match soon after in the 76th minute, as Sentnor ripped a long shot from distance past Breech into the top of the net.

West almost gave the lead right back to the Panthers in the 81st minute, as her shot went just inches wide left of the goal. Dellaperuta also had a great chance for the Tar Heels, but she sent her shot in the box way over the goal a minute after.

Sentnor had the last chance for UNC in regulation, as she shot her free-kick just onto the top of the net, forcing overtime.

Breech played a massive role in keeping Pitt in the match early on in the first overtime period. Dellaperuta received a through-ball from junior midfielder/forward Emily Colton and shot on goal, but Breech put in a trailing right leg to block the shot and forced a corner in the 93rd minute.

She made another save on a shot right at her from Tar Heels senior forward/midfielder Avery Patterson in the 95th minute. Breech would then make another save from a Dellaperuta shot right in front of goal, which West helped with a header after the initial save to keep it out in the 96th minute.

First-year defender Olivia Lee made a great block on a shot from Sentnor in the 99th minute, which spurred the next good opportunity for the Panthers.

Schupansky turned in the middle of the field and put in a through ball over the head of Mertz. Mertz stayed just onside and sprinted down the right wing to get onto the pass. She put in a great cross in the box for West, who dove and headed it under Allen for the go-ahead goal in the match in the 99th minute.

Pitt would hold off North Carolina in the second period of overtime, allowing no shots, and would earn an historic victory for the program.

Up next for Pitt is No. 1 Florida State Thursday night in the Semifinals of the ACC Tournament. The two teams will face off at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. at 8 p.m, which the ACC Network will broadcast.

The Panthers lost to the Seminoles in their first matchup of the season in Tallahassee, on Oct. 19, 3-2, with all the goals on the night coming in the second half.

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