The Pitt men’s soccer team entered the 2020 season with an offensive attack that was viewed as capable but inconsistent, as it had been shut out five times in 2019. And the heart of that unit was lost when star forward Edward Kizza left the program. But in Kizza's wake, Valentin Noel emerged as a new leader for Pitt, and his efforts not only helped transform the team into a national power but also earned him ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors.
In his sophomore season, the French midfielder took a leap forward in terms of production, as he followed up a three-goal, three-assist showing in an 18-game 2019 campaign with 11 goals and two assists in just 14 contests in 2020 and 2021. As a result, he finished the regular season as the ACC’s top scorer and ranked third in goals nationally.
Eight of Noel’s 11 goals came during an unprecedented six-game scoring streak that stretched from Oct. 10 to Nov. 22. That streak set a program record but was interrupted by the three-month pause between the fall and spring seasons. However, after shaking off some rust, Noel was able to regain his form and add three more goals in the spring.
Pitt’s reputation as the surprise team of the fall was built, in part, on strong early showings from Noel, as he posted back-to-back two-goal games against Virginia Tech and Virginia in October. The Frenchman followed those performances up with back-to-back game-winning goals against Duke and Notre Dame in the ACC tournament in November.
As a result, Noel earned a place of honor on the 2020 All-ACC tournament team, which turned out to be one of many accolades for him this season. But now, Pitt will look to him to close out his sophomore season with a few more strong showings in the ACC final and the NCAA tournament this spring.