The Pitt men’s soccer program has shown vast improvement over the last four seasons under Panthers coach Jay Vidovich, and that was recognized on Tuesday, when Pitt was picked to finish second in the North Region of the ACC in the preseason ACC coaches poll.
The Preseason Coaches Poll has been released!— ACC Men's Soccer (@ACCMSoccer) September 8, 2020
@ClemsonMSoccer is chosen as the South Region favorite and overall champion.
⚔️ @UVAMenSoccer is predicted to finish first in the North Region.
More info » https://t.co/0hrtqEZjGs pic.twitter.com/OG7r06x6zK
In addition to receiving 44 points and ranking second only to Virginia in the ACC’s North Region, Pitt received two first-place votes, making it one of five teams viewed by coaches as having the potential for such a finish. Virginia received nine first-place votes in the North. In the South, Clemson and Wake Forest both got five first-place votes to North Carolina’s one. Clemson led the way in the South with 45 points in the coaches poll.
Last season, Pitt took several major steps forward as a program, as it posted its first winning record since 2008, made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1965, and defeated No. 22 Virginia Tech and No. 1 Virginia. The team also won its first game back in the NCAA tournament, dealing Lehigh a 2-0 shutout. However, Pitt was then shut out by eventual champion Georgetown 5-0.
This season, Pitt will hope to build on its recent progress, and it will once again be led by Panthers forward Edward Kizza, who won first-team All-ACC honors in 2019 and is on the ACC preseason watch list again this year. In 2019, Kizza recorded 12 goals and four assists as a junior after a breakout sophomore campaign in which he scored 15 goals in 18 games.
The Panthers will have a shorter path to navigate than usual, with only nine games scheduled in a season shortened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pitt will face only ACC opponents, playing Louisville, Notre Dame and Syracuse twice each. The team will also host Virginia Tech, travel to Charlottesville to face Virginia and open up its season with a trip to Winston-Salem to face Wake Forest.
The Panthers' season opener against the Demon Deacons, who finished 2019 as the third-ranked team in the nation, is scheduled for Sunday evening. The match will kick off from Spry Stadium at 7 p.m. ET.