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Pitt alum Amaia Peña signs with Athletic Bilbao

The former Panthers goalkeeper inked a two-year deal with the Spanish club

Matt Hawley

Former Pitt goalkeeper Amaia Peña signed a two-year contract with Spanish club Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday. The move reunites Peña with the club she spent two seasons of her youth career with prior to joining Pitt ahead of the 2016 season. It also brings her back to her hometown, as Bilbao is just eight miles from Portugalete, where she attended high school.

Athletic Bilbao announced the signing on Tuesday morning, noting that the deal will run through June 2022 and that Peña will become a member of the club’s first team. Peña previously appeared in 37 games as a member of Athletic Bilbao’s second team during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

“I’m so proud of Amaia and happy to have had the opportunity to coach her,” Pitt head coach Randy Waldrum said in a statement. “She’s a true pro in everything she does, but more importantly a great person and teammate. The improvement she’s made is a direct result of the work she’s put in and the confidence she plays with. She set a high bar for all our goalkeepers to follow. Now we all have a new team to follow!”

The signing of Peña follows the retirement of longtime Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Ainhoa ​​Tirapu. Tirapu had been with Bilbao since 2005 and became the team’s starting goalkeeper in 2006. During her time with the club, Tirapu appeared in 358 games and played a key role in Bilbao’s Primera División title wins in 2007 and 2016. She also made 46 appearances for the Spanish women’s national team in her career.

Given the legacy that Tirapu leaves behind, Peña will have a tough act to follow in her hometown. But if she is able to secure the starting job, she will play a key role on a perennial contender in Spain’s Primera División, as Athletic Bilbao has won five league titles since its founding in 2002 and has never finished lower than fifth place.

During her time at Pitt, which lasted from 2016 to 2019, Peña appeared in 35 games and made 28 starts after redshirting during the 2016 season. From 2017 onward, she was eased into a starting role, playing in seven games as a redshirt freshman, 14 as a redshirt sophomore and 14 as a redshirt junior. She finished her Pitt career with 157 saves and 65 goals allowed, bringing her career save percentage to 70.7.

Peña is the second Pitt women’s soccer player to go pro under Panthers coach Randy Waldrum, as Julia Vazquez, who captained the Panthers and appeared in 70 games at Pitt between 2015 and 2019, joined the Puerto Rico Sol last November. Vazquez went onto score four goals in her pro debut in February.