The Pitt men’s soccer team has faced four teams this season and beaten them all, twice knocking off ranked opponents and twice defeating ACC rivals in overtime. The Panthers’ stellar play has seen them climb the national rankings, and entering their last matchup, they were ranked second nationally. But with the release of the new United Soccer Coaches poll on Tuesday, Pitt ascended in rank once more and became the No. 1 in the nation.
Pitt’s rise in rank followed its 3-2 defeat of No. 5 Virginia in Charlottesville on Sunday. In that matchup, the Panthers shot out to an early 2-0 lead furnished by emerging star Valentin Noel and would have escaped with a 2-1 win if not for a last-minute goal by Virginia’s Nick Berghold. However, Pitt quickly settled matters in overtime, as Arturo Ordoñez headed in the game-winner three minutes into extra time.
The Panthers were assisted in their climb to the pinnacle of the college rankings by the unranked Clemson Tigers, who knocked off the former No. 1 team in the nation in Wake Forest last Tuesday. The Tigers had been ranked third in the nation the week before but had fallen out of the national top five ranking just five hours before kickoff. As a result of their 2-1 win over the Demon Deacons, the Tigers re-enter the rankings at No. 3, while the Deacs, who rebounded with a 1-0 win over No. 3 North Carolina, now sit at second nationally.
Pitt’s No. 1 ranking is the highest ever achieved in program history as well as the first No. 1 ranking for any Pitt team since the men's basketball team topped the national rankings in 2009. It also comes in the context of an unprecedented period of success for the Panthers under Jay Vidovich, who has taken the team to new heights since his arrival in 2016. Last season, Vidovich led Pitt to its first national ranking since 2002, its first NCAA tournament berth since 1965 and its first tournament win in program history.
This year, it appears much more is within the Panthers’ reach, as they have emerged as one of the very best teams in the country.