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Pitt Lacrosse Beats Duquesne, 9-8 in OT, In Program Debut

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As silence finally prevailed at Highmark Stadium, Pitt lacrosse senior attacker Kierin Ratliff-Kailbourne still could not shake the excitement and nerves out of her hands, even minutes following a 9-8 overtime victory, in the program’s first-ever contest, against Duquesne Friday night.

For Ratliff-Kailbourne, it has been a two-year journey from Pitt’s club team onto the field where she scored four goals, including the first in program history, but in the moment, all of those highs and lows proved worthwhile.

“I know how long I’ve been working through this. I’m a senior now and have been with (coach Emily Boissonneault) for two years and I really wanted to score that and for the team we had to get up,” she said. “It was a great feeling.”

Pitt’s electrifying debut came in front of 764 fans, with various teams and athletics department staffers from both sides, included in that figure.

Early on, it was Duquesne which proved to be the more aggressive side as it won the first five draws and committed six of the game’s first seven fouls.

The start allowed Duquesne to silence the majority of the crowd, which had Pitt gear and towels which were handed to fans upon entering the stadium.

KIERIN RATLIFF-KAILBOURNE (12)February 11, 2022 David Hague/PSN

For junior attacker Carlie Leach, a lot of these feelings were familiar, transferring from Oregon, but also new, being part of a brand-new team and admittedly, with this being her third season opener, this one carried the most pressure because Pitt has become home to her.

Leach would be responsible for the game-winning goal in sudden victory after Pitt won the draw to begin the opening three minutes of overtime.

“I didn’t actually see the goal go in,” said Leach. “I was looking up and asking but they were telling me through the screams. It was an incredible way to finish.”

Despite some early jitters and errors, Pitt was able to slow the game down and focus on the game in the moment.

As emotional as the game was for Pitt, perhaps no one had a more difficult job that Boissonneault, not just with controlling the team, but calming herself down.

Prior to the game, Boissonneault sat across from the field attempting to compose herself as she prepared to deliver a speech that would be that final push to bring Pitt a victory.

Admittedly, Boissonneault teared up plenty of times reading the speech, but based on the scoreboard, it was mission accomplished.

“She is a great speaker,” Leach said. “Everyone was already excited to go out there, but she just brought it to another level.”

Duquesne’s undoing began with the same draw control which provided an early advantage. Pitt would win 14 of the final 15 draw controls, which provided more opportunity and the ability to flow more in its offensive attack.

“We knew there was going to be a lot of hype around this game,” Duquesne coach Corinne Desrosiers said. “It’s super cool that we have another team in town. To see the fight we had and make adjustments on the fly is really what I wanted from this game. I’m really proud of their effort and I feel like we probably should have had it. It was down the stretch that we didn’t get the draw enough. It’s hard to be all the way upset, but we are very upset.”

For Pitt, it was graduate attacker Karina Latsko who made the different with her decisive draw-winning ability in the second half that was a key towards calming the Panthers down and getting the offense in rhythm.

“We have some great players that take the draw in practice,” said Boissonneault. “We challenged them to see who was going to stand out. We gave it our opportunity and she took it. Karina is a native Pittsburgh kid, so for her to have a good game is amazing… To see her come out and perform in the game and win us the draw control, to win us the game was huge.”

Though Duquesne came up short, Desrosiers tried to remain upbeat. A Boston native, the fourth-year coach has found a new home in Pittsburgh and knows that having an ACC-level lacrosse program will only grow the community.

“This is a great city,” she stated. “It’s super fun to have more great lacrosse teams. It’s going to help the youth presence and represent some good recruits in Western Pennsylvania. We’re super excited to be part of it… We played a hell of a game, could’ve been ours, should’ve been ours, we’ll see them down the stretch. This is going to be a really fun match every year.”

After the final whistle, Leach finally admitted to nerves, not in the game, but with trying to summarize her journey and what Friday night meant to her.

As a transfer, it is never easy to come to a completely new program and trust a collective vision, but Leach is glad that she can now call Pitt home.

“It’s hard to find words for how incredible of a journey this has been. I kind of took a bit of a gamble coming out here,” said Leach. “I didn’t really know what to expect with the team, but I knew I was coming to build something bigger than myself. This has been beyond anything. I have made some of my best friends and we’re just getting started.”

POSTMATCH VIDEOS

 

 

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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