It took more than 100 minutes on a hot, sunny afternoon at Rooney Field, but Pitt women’s soccer team finally beat its crosstown rivals, Duquesne, on Sunday thanks to a golden goal by Vildan Kardelser in the 101st minute of the match.
“We had many chances in the first half, and I saw the ball come to me, and wanted to put it right back on the goal,” said Kardelser, a freshman from Steinfurt, Germany. “It was a great win, and a great way to start the season this weekend.”
It was Pitt head coach Greg Miller and his team’s first win over Duquesne since 2013, as Pitt now leads the all-time series (9-4).
“Unbelievable,” Miller said. “What a nice play, and shot by Vildan. On a day like this, you never know what’s going to happen. We knew Duquesne would give us everything they have. Credit to our kids, especially for hanging in there when the game really got stretched at times.”
After beating Pitt in 2014, and again in 2016, Duquesne came up short in its season opener this time around.
“It’s disappointing, for sure,” Al Alvine, Duquesne’s head coach, said. “The kid hit a good strike, and we didn’t get enough pressure on the ball, and she buried it. Not much goalkeeper could do about that one.”
It was a tale of two halves, as Pitt came out flying in the first half out-shooting the Dukes 9-3, but Duquesne settled down to create quality chances in the second half.
Pitt were the aggressive side in the early going, keeping Duquesne’s goalkeeper Kyra Murphy busy in the first 30 minutes of the match.
In the 14th minute, Pitt had a great build-up of possession that ended up with Taylor Pryce with the ball at her feet with open space from 14 yards, but her lining shot was right at Murphy.
Three minutes later, Murphy had to block a close range effort by Kardelser who broke past the Dukes back line to the right side of the goal box. In the 22nd minute, Pryce stepped in to intercept a pass, and broke free toward goal with no one by Murphy in front of her. Murphy came way off her line, sliding low to deny Pryce’s shot attempt.
Again, Pryce would have another chance in the 29th minute when Emma Pozzulo‘s free kick from the left side was right on target for Pryce, who headed it off the bar.
“With that many quality looks, we have to be sure to put them away,” Miller added. “You want to make the other team chase. Longer you remain off the scoreboard, chances are we’ll become the team chasing the game. We have to do better in those moments.”
Alvine knows he can count on Murphy, a junior from Canonsburg (Canon-Mac), to keep his team in the game.
“She’s a gamer,” said Alvine, of Murphy, who made eight saves, including six in the first half. “She kept us in it, which is what you need a keeper to do.”
While the Dukes dodged a number of Pitt assaults, they remained patient in their attacking opportunities, and as Pitt, who opened the season on Friday with a 1-0 win vs Hofstra, would slow down, they started to get deeper in to the attacking third. Katie O’Connor had a few dangerous moments, but her crosses would fail to connect and one shot from 20 yards was easily handled by Pitt keeper Katelyn McEachern.
In the 38th minute, after coming on as a sub, Duquesne’s Ciara Guglielmo put forth a quality shot attempt from the top of the box that pinged off the left post, giving each team a bounce off the woodwork in the first half.
The second half saw a bit less action in terms of shot attempts, as Pitt, playing in its second game in three days began to concede possession to Duquesne’s midfield as both teams started using more subs.
“I thought we were a little out of sorts in the first 30 minutes,” said Alvine. “I thought once we did figure it out, we had enough quality chances, but couldn’t capitalize on them.”
Despite a few dangerous corner kick and free kick opportunities, Pitt’s back line held off the Duquesne attack, thanks mostly to a superb performance by center back Emma Pozzulo, would hold on for its second clean sheet in three days.
“We have four new players on the back line, and redshirt freshman goalkeeper, so this was huge for them,” Miller said. “You always credit the team when you get a shutout, but for those five kids in the back, it’s wonderful. Look up at the scoreboard and see zeros all weekend is wonderful.”
As the teams played out regulation without a goal, Pitt opened up the scoring chances in the first overtime in the 92nd minute, as Kardelser bent a shot that Murphy has to push over the bar.
Duquesne had a quality chance too, as Malea Fabean took a touch on a bouncing ball, with room to shot, but her shot sailed over the bar in the 96th minute.
As the second overtime period opened, Pitt advanced deep into the final third. It would be Kardelser, who’s played for the German national team at all levels through U18, buried the winning shot after receiving a pass from Bel Van Noorden.
Both coaches felt that they had a lot to take away after another hard fought ‘City Game’.
“This is a game that we take the gloves off, and you never going to know what’s going to happen,” Miller said. “They’re always a well-coached team. They play hard and are disciplined. They know what their game plan is, and they try to execute it. And they’re always dangerous on set pieces, and that’s a game changer for them. In the Atlantic 10, they can do a lot of good things. That’s a team that’s only going to get better.”
Despite the loss, Alvine is glad to see that the Duquesne women’s program can go toe-to-toe with top Division I opponents.
“A few years ago, our game plan was entirely different,” Alvine explained. “We would sit in, and try to counter attack in the past. But, now, we’re at a point in our program where we are playing on equal terms with a team like Pitt. That’s a positive for us. Anyone could have won this game, and once it gets into overtime, it’s one player not stepping up. One player making a play. It’s tough way to lose, but I am proud of the effort.”
The Panthers will hit the road for a pair of games in Cincinnati, Ohio, taking on Cincinnati (Aug. 24) and Xavier (Aug. 26).
The Dukes remain home to host Oakland on Friday at 7 p.m. before heading to Morgantown, W.Va. to face top-ranked WVU on Sunday at 5 p.m.
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