The Pitt men’s soccer team far exceeded expectations this year but their wild ride in 2017 ended with a 5-0 loss to No. 21 Notre Dame in the first round of the ACC Tournament. The Panthers end the season 8-10-0.
A losing record doesn’t usually indicate much success but given the depths the men’s soccer program had sunk, winning eight matches is cause for some degree of celebration. Pitt hadn’t won eight matches combined over the past two years, winning twice last season and five times the year before. It was easily the most wins in the team’s tenure in the ACC and was the most for the program since winning ten back in 2008 in the Big East.
I’ve not been able to find bracket projections for the NCAA Tournament yet. As you might expect, there’s not quite the demand for those as there is in basketball. There are a total of 48 teams that get into the NCAA Tournament and 24 of those are conference champions. The Panthers’ record wouldn’t seem to point to them having much of a shot but Pitt is way up in the RPI at No. 24 with their extremely difficult schedule and the big wins they managed to pull off. Only one other team in the Top 25 of the RPI is anywhere near the Panthers in terms of record and that’s 8-8-0 Virginia Tech. Everyone else is well above .500 so it’s a pretty unusual situation.
Looking at the bracket for last year, UNLV was the only sub .500 team that made the field and they got in based on winning the WAC. But it is notable that an 8-8-3 Boston College team got in as well.
Ignoring that for the moment, I’ve always imagined new coach Jay Vidovich could turn things around here. But as I said on Twitter fairly recently, I’m surprised it’s happened so quickly. Vidovich has plucked some great international talent and also recruited far better than could be imagined at a program that’s not been known for much success.
Overall, the schedule was a brutal one, which makes the success even more surprising. More than half of Pitt’s opponents (10 out of 18) were ranked and five were in the top ten. Combine that with a team that was incredibly young and typically you would have a recipe for disaster. Instead, the team recorded wins over ranked Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Columbia teams and nearly earned a draw before losing in the final minutes to a ranked Virginia squad.
The success the team had this year was nice but the even better part is that the program is now set up for the long haul. Most of the offensive talent on the team returns next season and this is a very young team that should be poised for even better seasons for the next three years at the least.