The Pitt men’s soccer team is coming off a trip to Durham in which it eked out a 4-3 victory over Duke in double overtime. But even with a narrow win, Pitt earned a bump in the United Soccer Coaches poll this week, moving up from No. 7 in the nation to No. 5 in the nation.
Pitt started the spring as the No. 4 team in the nation after finishing the fall ranked No. 2. After that, the team suffered a 3-0 loss to North Carolina and fell to No. 8. But since then, the Panthers have been on a steady climb up the rankings. Now, only Washington, Oregon State, Georgetown and Clemson stand between Pitt and the top spot in the national rankings, which it held from Oct. 20 until Nov. 24 last year.
Currently, Pitt is one of four ranked ACC programs. The other three are Clemson, which is ranked No. 1; Wake Forest, which is ranked No. 6; and North Carolina, which is ranked No. 15. Virginia also received 17 votes and could break into the rankings by April 8, when the team is scheduled to face Pitt in its regular-season finale. But Pitt’s greatest threat is North Carolina, which now leads the Coastal Division with a conference record of 2-0-1 this spring.
As things stand, North Carolina would be the Coastal representative in the upcoming ACC spring championship game, and that would deny Pitt a shot at avenging its loss to Clemson in the ACC fall championship game in the postseason. But North Carolina, a team that has struggled on the road, has two away matchups coming up, while Pitt, which has not lost at home, has two home games ahead. So Pitt may have a chance to pull ahead.
As for the rankings, Pitt could continue to climb with convincing victories but has no matchups against ranked opponents on its schedule at this point in time. So the types of games ahead could hinder the Panthers from rising higher. But if they maintain the level of play they found against Duke and limit defensive mistakes, they may be hard to overlook in the coming weeks.