Pitt men’s soccer made history on Friday night, beating No. 21 Syracuse, 2-1, for the team’s first conference win since joining the ACC in 2013 and breaking an 0-31-7 winless skid.
Edward Kizza and Colin Brezniak scored for the Panthers, who hung on the end after Syracuse scored in the 88th minute to draw to within a goal.
But the set up for the Panthers’ historic win came three days earlier against rivals West Virginia.
Through the first eight games of the 2017 season, the Panthers scored a total of six goals. Tuesday against the Mountaineers, they scored seven in a 7-0 beat-down of rival West Virginia for the Panthers’ most lopsided victory since 2013.
Six different Panthers found the scoresheet in a cathartic offensive explosion that let loose some of the frustration of a 3-5 start that saw them lose three games by a single goal and often lacked the finishing ability they showed against the Mountaineers.
“We’ve left some on the table and we haven’t been good enough to create or take our chances,” Pitt head coach Jay Vidovich said. “We’ve played with a margin of error where if you make a mistake and give up a goal, you’re in a lot of trouble. I think it’s been a little bit of relief that we were able to find the back of the net.”
The offensive woes started from the very first game, when the Panthers went into the 89th minute tied against Ohio State tied at 0-0, but while pressing for a game-winning goal, instead conceded one, and lost, 1-0.
“The start was a big factor,” Vidovich said. “If we had won or even tied against Ohio State in the first game, it would have been different. But we didn’t. We went on the attack the last minute of the game, we missed a chance and they came back down the field and scored with 30 seconds left in the game. That hurt us for our next game and it got into our psyche a little bit. It’s taken us a little bit to get over that.”
Now, that process is taking place in reverse, with the confidence Panthers building on the offensive outburst.
“It was an example of one of those night where everything went right,” Vidovich said. “It was good. It’s more difficult to build (the play) and create goals. It takes a while to build those relationships between creative players. That was kind of all in good time and we were fortunate.”
Not only did the team get going offensively, but Tim Ekpone, Joshua Gaspari, Alex Peperak and Pol Planellas each got their first markers of the season. Vidovich said that feeling paid off in the preparations for Syracuse.
“It was a big thing,” Vidovich said. “You score some goals, you feel good about yourself because you’re doing your job.”