Selection Monday is a date that hasn’t been circled on the calendars of Pitt sports fans for years, as the Pitt men’s soccer team has typically been out of contention for postseason play by November. But after a solid regular season and a good showing in the 2019 ACC tournament, there was reason for optimism this year, and that optimism proved to be warranted, as Pitt was awarded its first NCAA tournament berth since 1965.
On Monday, it was announced that Pitt will face Lehigh in the first round of the 2019 NCAA tournament, and it has secured home-field advantage for the matchup. Lehigh is a dangerous team that will enter the tournament with a 13-4-3 record as well as wins over Navy, Northwestern and Loyola Maryland. Lehigh also won the Patriot League title, guaranteeing the team a spot in the tournament. However, the team ranks 68th in RPI out of 206 teams.
Pitt’s tournament berth comes on the heels of a close matchup with No. 1 Clemson in the third round of the ACC tournament. Although the result was a 1-0 loss, No. 25 Pitt proved it could hold its own with the best in the country. That wasn’t a new development, either, as Pitt had played then-No. 1 Virginia on Oct. 18 and dealt the top-ranked team a 2-0 shutout.
The win over Virginia was the centerpiece of a solid resume that earned Pitt entry into the tournament, as the team went 4-3-1 in the ACC, which is widely regarded as one of the toughest conferences in men’s soccer. Pitt also boasted wins over No. 22 Virginia Tech and a powerful NC State team just outside the Top 25. As a result, Pitt earned the 25th spot in the United Soccer Coaches poll and exited the ACC tournament as the No. 32 team in RPI.
The last time Pitt made the NCAA tournament was 54 years ago, and in that appearance, the team was bounced after a 2-0 first-round loss to East Stroudsburg. Prior to that, the team’s only tournament appearance was in 1962, and in that outing, Pitt lost to Maryland 4-3 in the first round as well.
The Panthers and the Mountain Hawks will face off at Ambrose Urbanic Field on Thursday, but the kickoff time has yet to be announced.