For the second time in two games, the No. 5 Pitt men’s soccer team needed more than 100 minutes to dispatch an ACC rival, as Virginia Tech forced double overtime when Pitt visited Thompson Field in Blacksburg on Saturday. But the Panthers still managed to prevail and dealt the Hokies a 2-1 defeat on their home field.
The game was scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m., but it was delayed due to lightning strikes in the area. As a result, the action got underway at 6:30 p.m. At that point, the kickoff gave way to a stalemate that would not be broken until Valentin Noel found the back of the net in the 43rd minute and provided Pitt with a 1-0 lead. The goal was Noel’s 11th of the season, and it was set up by Luke Peperak, a freshman out of Connellsville, Pennsylvania, who earned the first point of his collegiate career on the play.
Pitt would maintain its 1-0 advantage at the halftime break, and for the majority of the second half, it seemed the visitors would only need one goal to escape Blacksburg with a win. But a late goal off the foot of Virginia Tech forward Jacob Labovitz evened the score with just under five minutes left in regulation.
One overtime period came and went with no change in the score, but in the 102nd minute, Filip Mirkovic found Alexander Dexter, who got a shot past Virginia Tech goalkeeper Matt Zambetti to secure a 2-1 win for Pitt. The game-winning goal was Dexter's second this season and the seventh of his career, and his first game-winner this season also came at the expense of the Hokies on Oct. 10.
“I am very proud of the resilience demonstrated from the group tonight,” Pitt head coach Jay Vidovich saod after the game. “We started out with the goal in the first half, but we let the game slip in the second half in a very critical moment. But they showed the mental toughness and intensity to come back in overtime and win the game. To do that on the road with all the delays that happened today, I am just really proud of their mental toughness and the way they stayed in the game.”
While Pitt’s victory came in thrilling fashion, it also saw the emergence of a concerning pattern. Specifically, Pitt has faced four ACC opponents this spring and struggled against them all to some extent. And while the team has rebounded well from its 3-0 loss to North Carolina, the fact that Pitt has scraped by three straight opponents by just one goal suggests the team may lack the firepower it had in the fall, when a more dominant Pitt beat teams by two or more goals in four of eight games.
With that said, the road victory improved Pitt to 11-2 on the season and 7-1 in the ACC and dropped Virginia Tech to 4-6-2 overall and 3-5-2 in conference. It also gave the Panthers their first season with 11 or more wins since 2000, when the team went 13-5. But Pitt still has two hurdles to clear in Notre Dame and Virginia to reach the end of the regular season.
Notre Dame is one of the tougher outs in the ACC, as it currently sits at 8-7 overall. However, the Fighting Irish have struggled this spring, going 1-3 and losing their last two. They have also struggled against Pitt, in particular, as the Panthers beat them 3-1 on Sept. 26 and then knocked them out of the ACC tournament after defeating them by the same score on Nov. 18. Pitt’s tilt with Notre Dame is set to kick off from Ambrose Urbanic Field at 7 p.m. on Saturday.