Coming off of two big losses to rivals Penn State and Notre Dame on the road, Pitt finished their inaugural regular season with a 13-8 win over George Mason at Highmark Stadium Tuesday night.
The Panthers (8-9 overall) played close with the Patriots (3-13 overall) in the first half, but used a strong offensive showing in the third quarter to pull away and get the victory. The win for the Panthers gives them a 8-2 record in non-conference play and a 8-3 record at home in their inaugural season.
Panthers’ head coach Emily Boissonneault talked about how pleased she was to see her team get a victory and learn from mistakes in the last two losses and also how they improved throughout the entire season.
“So we have been talking a lot over the last couple of days, coming off of two losses about our possession and having confidence to go to the cage,” she said. “Today, actually this morning, we watched some film and identified a couple areas where we could be better as a program. What I was really pleased with, as slow of a start as we had, we were working to actively execute those changes and I think that was a big step for us in order to really progress and be successful in the ACC Tournament.”
Neither team could get much going in the first quarter. George Mason took the lead a third of the way through the first quarter, with junior midfielder Shannon Tuozzo scoring off an assist from junior attacker Chloe Reed.
Pitt tied it with 4:44 remaining in the period, as sophomore midfielder Maureen McNierney scored her eighth goal of the season. First-year attacker Ava Washington gave Pitt the lead with just 15 seconds left in the first period, with an assist from graduate attacker Madisyn Kittell.
The Patriots scored first in the second quarter, as Morgan Gunn scored from a free position, tying the game at two.
The Panthers responded with two goals in a 30-second span. Attackers Kittell and junior Carlie Leach scored to give the Panthers a 4-2 lead with 9:32 remaining in the second quarter.
Each team scored a goal to end the first half, with Tuozzo getting her second of the game for George Mason and then senior attacker Kierin Ratlif-Kailbourne scored off an assist from Leach, to make it a 5-3 lead for Pitt.
Pitt took control in the third quarter with the rain coming down, outscoring George Mason 6-2 to take a 11-5 lead.
Graduate attacker Paige Petty, sophomore midfielder Emily Coughlin and first-year midfielder Dylana Williams scored to make it 8-4 to the Panthers. This made the first eight goal scorers for the Panthers all different players.
“I think one of our strengths is we play fast and we didn’t necessarily do that in the first and second quarter and I think part of that was the attackers were really focused on executing what we’ve been working on,” Boissonneault said on the change in her team’s play in the third quarter. “So I think in the third quarter it was just a reminder of, ‘You know this is our strength. Playing fast on the attack is important to us.’ That time at halftime to remind ourselves of that was a big part [in the win].”
Leach, McNierney and Washington each got their second goal to round out the scoring for Pitt in the third period.
First-years, midfielder Taila Zuco and attacker Sydney Naylor, finished the scoring for the Panthers in the fourth quarter, making it 10 different scorers as a team.
“When we’re successful, everybody’s attacking,” Boissonneault said about the amount of players that scored for Pitt today. “We actually had that conversation coming out of our Notre Dame game, our low attackers didn’t have any shots. I think Paige [Petty] was the only attacker that took a shot and so we we’re really reliant on [midfielders]. When we move the ball well and everybody sees the net, we’re just much more successful as a program.”
George Mason scored three goals later on, but the game was far out of their control and Pitt finished with the victory.
Pitt plays in the first round of the ACC Tournament and depending on results, will either be the No. 8 seed or No. 9 seed. Regardless of their seed, they play next Wednesday, Apr. 27 at 2 p.m. at Notre Dame, who is hosting the first round through the semifinals.
“Ending our regular season is pretty sad,” Boissonneault said about the ending of the program’s inaugural regular season. “The girls love playing at Highmark and so for us to have our last regular season game here I think it’s a bit emotional for some of them and for our 13 graduates, it was a big day.”