Women’s soccer closes Cincinnati, matches best start in program history

PITTSBURGH- Lea Pais came off the bench to provide a pair of second-half goals just three minutes apart and lifted Pitt’s Women’s Soccer Team (6-0-0) to a 2-0 win over Cincinnati (3-1-2) Sunday at Ambrose Urbanic Field. The Panthers tied the 2020 Pitt team for the best start to the season in program history.

“It’s a new era, and we’re trying to build the confidence of every player, from rookie to senior,” Pais said. “Games are only going to get tougher, and Cincinnati was not an easy team.” And so the confidence is building against Cincinnati, no goals scored, and now it’s the next game. We keep standards to ourselves.”

Pitt has now led the opposition 24-1 this season, including 21-1 in the last four games and 15-0 in the last three. The Panthers have now posted five shutouts in six tries and are already tied for the fifth-most single-season shutouts in program history.

“The only thing we’re talking about here is that our game motto is that we want to dominate the ball,” the associate head coach said. Ben Waldrum said. “When you have more ball than your opponent, it certainly helps you defensively as well. I think that’s a credit to both sides of the ball.”

The Panthers prevailed despite losing the best player Amanda West on injury in the 13th minute. Pais replaced West in the lineup, and the Panthers didn’t miss a beat, keeping control of possession and dictating the pace of the contest.

“It’s amazing,” Pais said of his performance against Cincinnati. “Although I haven’t started, you still have a role to fill in the team, and he’s the next man. You have to fill the role that needs to be done and I said, ‘Hey, you’re come and you have to put the ball in the back of the net or help someone put the ball in the back of the net,’ and I did that.”

Pais finally broke a scoreless stalemate in the 61st minute thanks to a stream of Samia Phiri. Phiri drew a pair of defenders close to the goal line and then fired a perfect pass between them towards Pais, who was waiting in the top right corner of the penalty area. Pais fired a ball with his right foot that sailed past the outstretched arms of Cincinnati goaltender Anna Rexford and settled into the bottom left corner of the net.

“Sam held that cross really well,” Pais said. “She’s an amazing player. She knows how to get the ball through and around people. She had two players on her, and she kind of slipped it through both of them, and I looked up and said, ‘I’ve done this before, I’ll try to do it again’, and I looked up and it was the post back.”

Pais then netted an insurance goal for Pitt in the 64th minute with an assist from Keera Melenhorst. Melenhorst sent a solid pass from the top right of the penalty arc to a waiting Pais, who fired the ball with her right foot into the right corner of the net and beat Rexford again. The goals marked the first two of the season for Pais and took his career tally to 11. His multi-goal effort marked the third of his career and the first since 2020.

The Panthers finished the game beating the Bearcats, 20-7, with Landy Mertz leads the way with six shots and Pais has five, four of them on goal.

Caitlyn Lazzarini played all 90 minutes in front of Pitt’s goal and came away with her third shutout of the season and sixth of her career. With a clean sheet of 405 minutes on the season, she is now 6-0-0 on the year and 14-6-0 for her career.

PITT NOTES

  • Pitt earned his first win over Cincinnati in four tries as the Panthers improved to 1-2-1 all-time against the Bearcats.
  • Panthers now 37-34-1 under fifth-year leader Randy Waldrum. After going 9-22-4 in the first two years of a massive rebuild, Pitt went 28-14 in the past two seasons.
  • Samia Phiri recorded his second assist as a Panther as Keera Melenhorst recorded his first point for Pitt with his assist.
  • Fifth year head coach Randy Waldrum was absent from Pitt’s bench on Sunday against Cincinnati as he carries out his duties as head coach of the Nigerian senior women’s national team. The Super Falcons face the United States Women’s National Team in two exhibition games, the first being played at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City on Saturday, a 4-0 victory for the United States. Game 2 is Tuesday at Audi Field in Washington, DC (6 p.m., ESPN2). Waldrum will return to coach Pitt in their next game at VCU on Thursday.

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