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Pitt women's soccer team off to record start with underclassmen leading the way

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Last year, we saw the emergence of a couple of women's sports programs as the volleyball and softball teams put together some very good seasons. This year, we might be able to add the women's soccer team to the list of programs starting to perform.

The team is off to a 7-1-1 start, a program best. This weekend, they opened up ACC play with a 2-0 win over North Carolina State. While the Wolfpack (4-6-0) aren't a great team, the victory was noteworthy because it was the Panthers' first ACC home win since joining the conference in 2013. As only the third conference win for the program, it's easy to see that the women's soccer team hasn't had much success lately.

Need an indication of how well the team is playing compared to past years? The seven victories are already as many or more than the program has had in each of the last four seasons. The best team Pitt has fielded in that time was a 7-10-2 squad in 2012.

Pitt hasn't only been winning matches so far, but has been dominant. Over the last six matches, they are undefeated and have outscored opponents 13-2 in that time. That doesn't even include the easy 6-0 win they had against Robert Morris earlier in the season. That was the first time in four years that the Panthers have scored at least six goals in a contest.

Part of the reason for success has to be attributed to getting better players. Pitt's 2014 recruiting class, for example, was ranked No. 14 in the nation, according to a popular soccer website. That class had 12 players, including Taylor Pryce, who leads the team in shots (30) and is second in scoring with ten points.

And while the 2015 class wasn't as heralded, it included some of the team's best players. Leading the way is true freshman Jarena Harmon, who scored a hat trick in the Robert Morris game and leads the team with 11 points and five goals. With three of the team's seven game-winning goals, she leads the club in that department, too. Also in that 2015 class were the team's 4th, 5th, and 6th leading scorers, Kaylee Rabatin, Sarah Krause, and Juliana Vazquez, who have contributed 19 points.

Including 2014 recruit Ashley Moreira, who is seventh on the team in scoring, six of the top seven scorers were brought in with the Panthers' 2014 and 2015 classes. Senior Roosa Arvas, tied with Pryce with ten points, is the lone exception. She has been one of the program's best players and earlier this year, broke the school's record for career points.

The program still has a while to go to prove itself against the better teams. That was demonstrated in a 4-1 exhibition loss to a ranked Kentucky program. But winning any games at all is a great step forward for a program that simply doesn't come out on top all that often. With a youth movement in full effect, the women's soccer team is very much one that is on the rise. The program isn't yet getting respect in the polls, but that will change if they keep winning and can pull off a high-profile win or two along the way.

The team's next game is against Wake Forest on Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. That one is actually televised as you can watch it on ESPN3.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.