No. 20 Pitt women’s soccer kicked off their three-game homestand with a tough 1-0 loss against the No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs on a misty Sunday morning.
Both teams came into the match undefeated, and with near spotless defenses. The Panthers only conceded two goals before this game — both to Oklahoma State — and the Horned Frogs had only let up one measly goal against Texas A&M. Head coach Randy Waldrum knew how tough this matchup would be.
“The girls understood the difficulty with the match,” he said. “Part of this is learning what it takes to play teams in the top-20, [and] in the top-10. TCU’s a very good team.”
The challenge seemed a little tougher when Pitt revealed that sophomore forward Amanda West would not start. The Panther’s all-time leading scorer was a late scratch on Sunday with an undisclosed injury.
TCU almost immediately jumped on the chance to pressure the Pitt defense. The Horned Frogs controlled the pace in the first ten minutes of play, but the Panthers held strong, led by senior goalkeeper Katherine Robinson.
The two sides were trading shots by the 15th minute. Robinson made several key saves to keep the Frogs shut out and the Panthers within arms reach. Pitt came oh-so close to breaking the scoreless tie in the 31st minute, when junior midfielder Landy Mertz collected the ball after a corner kick and fired it into a sea of TCU defenders. The shot miraculously missed everybody — including TCU sophomore keeper Lauren Kellett — but a defender sneaked behind Kellett and prevented the ball from crossing the line
The Panthers would continue to pressure the TCU defense. First-year midfielder Ellie Coffield registered two shots in the final five minutes. Both were from distance, but neither of them hit the mark and the half ended with the score knotted at zero. The shots came thick and fast in the first half. Both teams took eight shots, but Pitt took four shots on goal to TCU’s three.
The second half took a mostly similar form, with both teams taking several shots and the defenses keeping the game close. However, this half started with a TCU goal. In the 46th minute, TCU junior midfielder Michelle Slater stole the ball from a Pitt defender, passed it to junior forward Grace Collins who then found Slater cutting towards the net. She would chip it from 20 yards out, sneaking the ball over the head of Robinson for the game’s only goal.
Despite that small error, the Pitt defense put on a show. The Horned Frogs put up 20 shots — eight of them on goal — with a majority of their attempts coming in the second half. Robinson made seven saves, and none were better than her save in the 54th minute. TCU senior forward Messiah Bright found open grass in front of her and took a shot from just outside the 18-yard box. Robinson jumped as high as she could and batted it away with her outstretched hand. The deficit stayed at one goal.
On the other side, TCU’s defense was impeccable. The Frogs stopped all of Pitt’s 14 shots, including five on goal. Waldrum couldn’t help but think that the game could’ve easily flipped in Pitt’s favor.
“They were the better team no doubt,” he said. “But if the ball bounces another way, we could come out of here with a win.”
The Panther’s chances of coming back seemed to disappear in the 67th minute. Senior defender Hailey Davidson slid to try to keep the ball in play and away from a corner kick, but she hurt her leg in the process. The training staff had to help her off the field, but she returned in the 73rd minute — helping Pitt keep the score at 1-0.
Sophomore midfielder Emily Yaple pulled the trigger from 30 yards out in the 70th minute, but the shot went wide. This was the first sign of Pitt picking up the pace in the final 20 minutes, and their best chance came in the 83rd.
The play began with a TCU throw-in. Senior defender Brandi Peterson took the ball and started to reorganize the offense. The referee thought she was taking too long to throw the ball in, and called her for a yellow card. The Panthers stole the re-do throw-in from the defense and Mertz found first-year forward Sarah Schupansky cutting toward the net. But her lead pass went too far and right into the hands of Kellett.
Senior defender Kate McKay would also pick up a yellow in the 88th minute for an intentional tackle, but by then the Horned Frogs had safely parked the ball in the opposing zone. The final whistle sounded and TCU held onto the 1-0 lead.
Waldrum said he wasn’t disappointed in the loss, but he also felt that his team didn’t play up to their full abilities.
“I can take the loss, because they’re obviously a very good side,” he said. “But I felt like they didn’t get our best game. We didn’t get into our rhythm, but we lost to the better team.”
The Panthers will look to bounce back from their defeat, as they continue their homestand against St. Francis of Pennsylvania on Thursday at 7 p.m. ACC Network Extra will stream the game.
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