A heroic performance by goalie Paulina DiFatta led Pitt to a 13-10 win over Louisville in the first round of the ACC women’s lacrosse tournament at Arlotta Stadium in South Bend, Ind on Wednesday afternoon. Louisville out-shot Pitt, 38-24, but DiFatta was incredible with an ACC tournament record 19 saves.
Madisyn Kittell led the Panthers with three goals, along with two assists. Pitt had seven different goal scorers on the afternoon. Nicole Perroni led Louisville with five goals.
At the end of the first period, Pitt was tied up with Louisville at 3-3. Louisville controlled possession and out-shot Pitt, 11-6. If it wasn’t for DiFatta’s five saves in the opening period, the Cardinals could have been up by at least three goals. The Panthers got on the board first, thanks to a goal by Carlie Leach. Paige Petty then scored at the 9:37 mark to give Pitt an early 2-0 lead. Louisville stormed back and tied the game at 2-2 after two goals from Perroni. A few minutes after tying the game, Perroni earned a hat trick after whipping a shot past DiFatta to put the Cardinals up 3-2. Leach answered with another goal to tie the game at the 3:11 mark of the first period.
In the first 5:30 of the second period, the Panthers scored four goals to take a 7-3 advantage. The Panthers retook the lead after a goal by Ava Washington that was assisted by Petty. Julia Foster then scored after a nifty move inside to enhance the Panthers’ lead with 8:40 remaining in the second period. Twenty-seven seconds later, Washington scored her second goal of the afternoon. Following a turnover, Kittell put one past J Pleck to put the Panthers up by four goals. Leach gave a great feed on the goal.
DiFatta continued to have a standout performance with nine saves and shut out Louisville in the second period. The Cardinals missed on their last 10 shots. Despite Louisville out-shooting Pitt, 18-13, in the first half, the Panthers led 7-3 at halftime.
With a woman down, Kittell fed a pass inside to Kierlin Ratliff-Kailbourne who buried a shot into the net to put the Panthers up 8-3 with 9:39 remaining in the third period. Louisville continued to struggle offensively, as DiFatta was stellar in net. At the 8:15 mark, Louisville finally scored a goal to cut the Panthers’ lead to 8-4. The Cardinals went 27 minutes without scoring.
From behind the net, Kittell wrapped around and put one past Pleck to give the Panthers a 9-4 lead with 2:42 left in the third period. With 26 seconds remaining in the period, Perroni got one past DiFatta to make it a 9-5 game. The Cardinals struck again with another goal to make it a 9-6 game with two seconds left.
Petty scored on a free position shot to enhance the Panthers’ lead to 10-6. Perroni answered for Louisville with her fifth goal of the afternoon to make it a 10-7 game with 11:13 remaining. At the 9:33 mark of the fourth period, Chloe Jones added to Pitt’s cushion to give the Panthers a four-goal lead again. Louisville continued to battle back and Caroline Blalock scored to make it a three-goal game.
A few minutes later, Perroni had a great scoring chance but was stoned by DiFatta, which was her 18th save of the game. Off a turnover, Kittell received a long pass and ripped one into the net to put the Panthers up 12-8. Maureen McNierney then scored to give the Panthers a five-goal cushion. Louisville scored two more goals but ultimately couldn’t pull off a comeback and Pitt advanced to the second round of the ACC tournament where they’ll face No. 1 seed North Carolina on Friday. The start time of Friday’s game is at noon ET and it can be streamed on ESPN+ and the ACC Network.