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Pitt Women’s Soccer Obliterates Ohio State, 6-0 in First Round of NCAA Tournament

Pitt women's soccer midfielder Ellie Coffield

PITTSBURGH — Pitt women’s soccer showed the NCAA Tournament Committee that they deserved better than a No. 7 seed, as they obliterated Ohio State 6-0, in the First Round Saturday night at Ambrose Urbanic Field.

The Panthers (15-5-1) (W-L-D) make it out of the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament for the second season. They defeated Buffalo 1-0 last season, thanks to a late goal from former forward Leah Pais to ensure their first ever NCAA Tournament match victory. This is also the second ever win for the Panthers over the Buckeyes (9-8-2) in five matches and their first ever win at home.

Ohio State had one real chance in the first half that came in the sixth minute, as a cross hit off the head of Pitt fifth year defender Ashton Gordon backwards. The ball fell to senior forward Emma Sears, but she sent her shot glancing in front of goal and wide left for a goal kick.

Panthers fifth year midfielder Landy Mertz crossed it into the box in the 29th minute, which deflected off of two Buckeyes players to first-year midfielder Deborah Abiodun. She controlled it and then smashed it into the back of the net for the opening goal.

Pitt would score again just a minute later to double their lead. Another cross from Mertz deflected off of Ohio State first-year midfielder Ava Bramblett and onto the cross bar. Junior forward Sarah Schupansky found herself in the right place and just had to head it into the back of the net to double Pitt’s lead.

The Panthers would make it three goals in six minutes, thanks to Mertz. She put in another cross, this time with her weaker right foot, but it sailed from the right side of the field, over Buckeyes sophomore goalkeeper Riley Pritchard into the net for an incredible goal to make it 3-0 in the 35th minute.

The second half didn’t stop Pitt women’s soccer from adding to their lead, as they got a penalty kick in the 47th minute. Ohio State first-year defender Nette-Nina Hiltunen clipped Pitt junior forward Samiah Phiri from behind in the box, leading to Phiri taking the penalty and blasting it in the left corner to make it 4-0.

The Panthers would complete the blowout with two goals in the 30 seconds in the 62nd and 63rd minute. Mertz crossed it into the box to fifth year forward Amanda West, who got in front of backup Buckeyes first-year goalkeeper Peighton Northrup to head it in for the fifth goal. Mertz got involved again on the next goal, passing it to junior midfielder Ellie Coffield, who put in a strong enough shot for it to deflect off a Buckeye defender to creep into the net for the sixth goal.

Mertz finished with a career high three assists and scored a goal against Ohio State. She thanked her teammates for a great performance and how it showed the rest of the country how lethal the Panthers are in the attack.

“Obviously, coming out against a good team like Ohio State, you’re not expecting to score six goals,” Mertz said. “But we had a job tonight and it was to prove something to everybody and I think we got the job done.”

Pitt women’s soccer received a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament, despite finishing with a No. 11 ranking and making it to the ACC Semifinals for the first time in program history. They also dropped three seeds from last season, which head coach Randy Waldrum didn’t understand, but pointed to the disrespect the team has received all 2023 from rankings to the postseason.

“I think so,” Waldrum said on Pitt proving something against Ohio State. “I thought we were seeded too low. I didn’t think it was a good seeding for us, but all season, I mean, my gosh, we started the season No. 14 in the country and we won six games and we dropped out of the top 25. So, it was kind of the norm for the season and why we weren’t getting the respect I felt like we needed to get, you’d have to ask the committee that I guess. But I don’t think our players ever thought about it. We didn’t really talk about it with them as a staff. We just said, “Look. We play who’s in front of us. If we are as good as we think we are, then if it’s Ohio State, it’s Ohio State. We’ll go from there.” So the players just did a good job of just keeping the focus and not letting those things affect them.”

The win was especially important for Mertz, who is a fifth year player, playing in her final home match of her Pitt career and having the possibility of her final collegiate game. A native of nearby Upper St. Clair, Pa., Mertz needed 30 tickets for all the family members and friends to see her play and her performance justified their short trip to Ambrose Urbanic Field.

“Definitely not. I think this season, honestly, I’ve struggled to get points in games that I thought that I should have. I come out of games where I thought I should’ve had a goal, or a couple goals, a couple of assists, and I end coming out of the game with nothing. So it’s definitely been a little bit of a frustration for me personally, Randy knows. So tonight, to kind of have some of them fall my way, it definitely feels good and obviously, just any way I can help my team win in a game like this, is important. Now, we’re getting to the point of the season where for me as a fifth year, every game could be my last. To have a big impact in these games is obviously the goal. You want to end on a good note. For me it was my last home game. So, definitely one that I’ll remember forever.”

Pitt women’s soccer will face No. 2 Arkansas next Friday for the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA has not announced a kickoff time yet.

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