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No. 9 Forever: Amanda West recalls memorable five years at Pitt

Photo: Matt Hawley / Pittsburgh Panthers Athletics

Amanda West couldn’t pick one standout memory from her time at the University of Pittsburgh.

That makes sense. The fifth-year senior recently wrapped up her collegiate career with the Panthers this past fall, helping the team to an Elite 8 finish in the NCAA Tournament. West has been more than integral during her five years with Pittsburgh.

But before discussing accolades and honors, records and goals, West had to reflect on her time at Pitt through countless memories.

Like during her freshman year, when the Panthers beat Boston College for their first ACC win in three years. That was a moment that West describes as comparable to winning a national championship. She also recalled her sophomore year, and taking a 14-hour bus ride to The Citadel due to COVID-19 restrictions on flights.

“It was a horrible bus ride!” West recalled with a laugh. “Looking back now, it was a lot of fun with my teammates. There are so many memories from that trip of us laughing because it was so terrible.”

Then, last year, during her true senior year, West and her teammates ventured out to Montana for a preseason tournament. The team bonded by swimming in the crystal-clear rivers and hiking up mountains with tremendous views.

Then, in 2023, West returned from an ACL injury and helped the Panthers to their best finish ever, with a 17-6-1 overall record, and six ACC wins, a program record. However, it was tournament wins against North Carolina and Arkansas that stood out.

“When we beat Arkansas is my favorite memory, or when we beat North Carolina for the first time ever,” West recalled. “Those two wins will be remembered forever. The caliber of the opponent, both of them were stellar. Arkansas hadn’t lost at home since 2021, and UNC was undefeated the whole year. Both were very high-stakes games, ACC Conference Tournament and NCAA Tournament. Those two, I’m going to remember those forever.” 

The memories are endless for West, both off and on the field. Each and every memory she recounted — and believe me, there were more — all circled back to one thing: her teammates.

That’s what West is going to miss the most about the University of Pittsburgh, she said.

“My teammates, that’s going to be the hardest thing to say goodbye to,” West said. “I know I will see them again, but it won’t be the same, since I won’t be spending every single day with them, for hours on end. I do think the people here are so incredible. I am so lucky.

“People don’t realize how lucky you really are to be in a certain situation until you’re leaving it,” she continued. “There’s just so many schools around the country where you might not find 30 incredible teammates. You might be lucky to find a few. I have nothing but good things to say about every single one of my teammates. I will miss them so much.” 

West is now on the lookout for a new set of teammates. The striker recently registered for the 2024 NWSL Draft, which is set for Friday, Jan. 12, at 8 p.m. ET. The draft will be held in Anaheim, California, during the United Soccer Coaches Convention.

West isn’t the only Panther to register, as Landy Mertz, midfielder, also registered for the draft. Should one of them be drafted, or both, that would be Pitt’s first-ever drafted NWSL player.

This interview was conducted before West announced her registration for the NWSL Draft. However, she stated via text message that she is, “entering [the draft] with her fingers crossed!”

“Honestly, I’m open to either going overseas or the NWSL,” she said in mid-December. “I would love to play in the NWSL, but I would also love to play overseas. I’m still weighing out options and trying to figure out what I’m going to do. Obviously, the NWSL Draft is not until mid January. The transfer window opens in January. I’m excited to see where my professional career takes me.” 

One of the reasons West said she came to Pittsburgh was because of the coaching pedigree of Randy Waldrum, who has coached professionally in the NWSL, serving as the Houston Dash coach from 2014-17.

“I knew that they understood what my goals were, post-graduate. They knew I wanted to play professionally, and my coaches knew how to get me there in terms of contacts and what’s the right path,” West said. “They just have so much experience. It’s been very helpful to sit and have conversations with them. It means the world that I have that kind of relationship with my coaches, where I can have open conversations. They care about me beyond No. 9 on Pitt, on the field. That’s been huge.” 

Something that helped in her favor during her time at Pitt, which she could take into the professional game, is her leadership capabilities. During her sophomore year, on an extremely young team, West was given a leadership role. She has grown into it over the years, a regular captain for the Panthers.

“We were a team that needed to find their identity,” she said. “We didn’t really have much established. When I stepped into that leadership role, there was a lot of opportunity to grow. Throughout the years, I have become a better leader, in terms of understanding my teammates and I’ve worked alongside some pretty incredible people.”

This past season, West highlighted that she grew as a leader while watching other team captains work, players like fellow fifth-year senior Ashton Gordon, along with junior Ellie Coffield and senior Chloe Minas.

“I couldn’t give you a better group of leaders than those three women,” West stated. “Ashton is just so mature. It’s like having another coach on the field. She’s so calm, just a calming presence on everyone. Ellie knows how to include every person and make everyone feel like they’re important and needed. I think that that is so huge. You only see what happens on the field, but it comes from everything that happens off the field, getting together off the field and making sure we’re doing things together. Chloe is the epitome of the gold standard, in my opinion. She just knows what to do. She’s so focused. She does all the right things off the field, on the field. She’s someone that everyone looks up to, myself included. Those three people have made me so much better of a leader.”

In the Panthers Record Books

West may be leaving the University of Pittsburgh after five memorable years, but she’ll always be remembered — literally.

West is the holder of many Panthers records, including: points (85), points per game (1.89), goals (33), goals per game (0.73), overtime goals (four), penalty kick goals (10), game-winning goals (13) and career three-plus point games (13). (All statistics via the University of Pittsburgh Athletics). 

West said the honor is humbling, but the records show the growth of the program as a whole, not just her.

“That’s a sign of where this program was, compared to where it is now. I think that’s ultimately what’s most important to me,” West said. “When I first came to Pitt, it was never on my radar to lead these statistical categories and become the career leader in xyz. But, that just kind of happened as a byproduct of everything else that was going on in this program. It’s very special to have my stamp in the history books, but I hope even more so that I left a lasting impact on my teammates and my coaches, the coaches as a whole, in terms of our culture, attitude, effort and everything like that. That’s more the legacy that I would like to leave.”

Last year, her legacy included returning from an ACL injury that took her out of her senior season.

“This year was extremely special, coming back from my ACL injury. Last season, the team made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, and it was really hard to not physically be able to contribute,” she recalled. “That was the goal when I got here in 2019, to help this team make it to that stage. I just love Pitt and the people here so much that seeing them and their success, watching my teammates thrive, that was equally as gratifying as being on the field. So, the opportunity to come back and play another season, I wanted to make sure that I was going to come back and be the same player that I was before, and I felt that I was able to do that.”

West said she “couldn’t give a single word” for how it felt to come back and find the back of the net again, scoring like she never missed time at all.

“I think every athlete will tell you their comeback season is one to remember, and one that is extremely sentimental,” she said. “This was not only my comeback season, but my last season at Pitt. I couldn’t give you a word for it, for how it felt.” 

Taking her final Panthers bow

Five years and countless memories later, West’s time as a Pittsburgh Panther has come to a close. The Canadian native said it’s sad to see it all come to an end.

“I loved everything about Pitt, and all the people here,” West said. “That makes it very hard to say goodbye. I am excited, obviously, for the next chapter. I’m excited to hopefully start my professional career. The last five years here were so special.”

West went back to the fateful 2019 game against Boston College, where she scored the game-winning goal in overtime to clinch the first ACC win in three years.

“To come in in 2019, when we beat Boston College for our first conference win in years, to where we are now, four and a half years later, making it to the Elite 8, losing to the national champion, that just speaks to how far we’ve taken this program,” she recalled. “I am very excited to see how far they continue to take it. I loved every minute that I got to be a Panther.”

West said she has one wish for the future of the Panthers, too. She hopes that fans continue to pour out to support the team at Ambrose Urbanic Field.

“There is no cooler feeling than when you look into the stands and they’re packed,” she said. “The fans care about how the game is going, they’re cheering you on and they’re booing the ref when it’s a bad call. It all adds to the atmosphere. It makes it so much more exciting to play in… The fans, they weren’t there my freshman year, but they were definitely here this year, and we heard them. I hope they continue to come out, because I know this team is heading in the right direction.

“I would not be surprised to see this team bring home a championship in the very near future,” West continued. “We would love for the fans to see that. They make so much more of a difference than you would think.” 

“Hail to Pitt!” she added, for the final time.

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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