Three members of the Pitt men’s soccer team earned conference honors earlier this week, as Edward Kizza was named to the All-ACC first team, Javi Perez made the All-ACC second team, and Chandler Vaughn was included on the ACC All-Freshman Team.
For Kizza, the honor signifies a historic end to a historic season, as he is the first Pitt player to make the All-ACC first team. The native of Kampala, Uganda, accounted for 15 goals in 19 matches in 2018, which is the third-best single-season total in program history. Kizza is the first player to crack the top 10 of that ranking since Phil Matilla and Craig Connolly did so in 1977.
The sophomore forward also converted on 62 percent of his shots and tallied 30 points on the season. As a result, he finished atop the ACC in goals, points and shot accuracy.
Perez, who just concluded his second season as Pitt’s captain, ranked second on the team in goals, points and assists, with four, 11 and three on the year, respectively. The senior from Valencia, Spain, was also a vital element of Pitt’s attack, as he made a number of plays from the midfield. For his efforts, he was recognized by the conference for the second year in a row.
Vaughn was also recognized by the ACC although his contributions were less tangible than those of Kizza and Perez. Still, he saw the field frequently for the Panthers, as he took part in 18 of the team’s 19 matches this season, making 15 starts. He also played an important role on a defense that posted five shutouts on the season, including two in the ACC tournament.
While the accolades are well deserved, Pitt’s season overall was a bit of a disappointment, as the team failed to improve on its 8-10 record from 2017. In fact, the Panthers appeared stagnant, posting an 8-10-1 record this season. They also made no progress in conference or at home, going 2-6 against ACC opponents and 5-4 at Ambrose Urbanic Field. And if those figures sound familiar, it’s because they went unchanged between 2017 and 2018.
Of course, the underlying reasons for Pitt’s slow progress seem to be external rather than internal, as the ACC offers brutal competition. That much is apparent from the remainder of the 2018 All-ACC listings, which are dominated by North Carolina, Duke, Virginia and Wake Forest. None of those teams placed fewer than five players on the various all-conference squads, and each is ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation in the United Soccer Coaches poll.
The Panthers weren’t far from that figure at the end of the 2018 season, with three All-ACC players of their own. However, they’ll take a step back in 2019, as Perez is set to graduate. Now, the onus is on Vidovich to continue recruiting elite talent and keep pace with the conference.