Pitt men’s soccer captures 1st NCAA tourney win in program history
On Thursday evening, in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Ambrose Urbanic Field, it was clear the Pitt men’s soccer team was out to accomplish something that never had been done in program history.
After receiving their first bid into the NCAA Tournament since 1965, the Panthers wanted to take it one step further. They wanted to capture the first NCAA Tournament victory in school history.
“My expectations are to win games and go to championships. That’s why these two (Edward Kizza and Jackson Walti) and the rest of the guys came here,” fourth-year Pitt coach Jay Vidovich said. “That’s what I want to do. I don’t want to do anything else.”
Behind first-half goals from junior forward Edward Kizza and junior defenseman Bryce Washington, the Panthers (10-7-2) defeated Patriots League champion Lehigh, 2-0, to advance to the second round.
Pitt will take on No. 3 Georgetown on Sunday in Washington D.C.
“It’s a big win. It’s a great feeling, and we know we haven’t been here in 54 years. We’ve never gotten the victory,” Walti said. “But with the quality of players we have and the quality of our play, this one victory is not enough to satisfy us.
“Hopefully there are a lot more games to come, and it starts on Sunday.”
Although Pitt came out on top, Lehigh came within inches of scoring a go-ahead goal in the first minute of the game.
Former North Allegheny star Josh Luchini made a run down the right flank, got by Walti and took a shot from the end line just inside the 6-yard box. But, Pitt goal keeper Arie Ammann made his first of four saves on the night.
“I think it was just a little bit of nerves, the first NCAA tournament game for us,” Walti said. “It took a moment for me to get into the match, which isn’t good.”
After the initial scare, the Panthers rebounded. They started controlling the possession, working the ball from the left to the right side of the field across the back line, just waiting for the right moment to strike.
That moment came in the 18th minute.
Arturo Ordonez fed a ball to Alexander Dexter on the left flank, and the junior forward made a move as he entered the box and sent a cross into the middle. The ball leaked through a few defenders and landed on the foot of Kizza, who scored his 12th goal of the season.
“Every time (Dexter) has the ball I know exactly what I have to do, and that’s just get to the near post,” Kizza said. “I know he’s gonna find me, so I made my run into free space and goal, back of the net.”
The Panthers struck again in the 43rd minute by attacking the left flank once again. This time, it came off a corner.
A rebound kicked out to the top of the box, and freshman forward Josh Hesson received a pass and made a move into the box before sending in a cross. Again, a Panther was ready and waiting in front of the net.
This time it was Washington to put the Panthers up two goals.
“It was a great finish,” Vidovich said. “He was in the right spot at the right time and a one-touch finish into the back of the net. It was very timely. It would have been a different type of halftime if it was just 1-0.”
History was made Thursday night at Ambrose Urbanic field, but the Panthers aren’t done yet. They have a matchup with a tough Georgetown team, and Vidovich knows what the Hoyas bring to the table.
“They are a good team. They are talented. They are well coached, disciplined and their team has a lot of wins in them,” Vidovich said. “They are a good foe, and it’s a good opportunity. That’s what you look for in the tournament.”
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .