The Pitt men’s soccer team hosted Virginia at Ambrose Urbanic Field on Thursday night in its regular-season finale, and the Panthers entered the matchup ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation. They would justify that distinction and earn another, as they routed the Cavaliers 5-0 and won their first ACC Coastal title.
Pitt wasted no time getting to work, as Alexander Dexter opened up the scoring three minutes into the game. The Brooklyn native capitalized on a Veljko Petkovic corner kick that Raphael Crivello headed into the box. Dexter then redirected the pass and found the back of the net for an early 1-0 advantage.
Luke Peperak would pad Pitt’s lead with 15 seconds left in the first half. The former Connellsville High School standout saw an opportunity seven minutes after he checked into the game, when Alexander Dexter lofted a pass to him in the box. The pass found the forward streaking toward the goalmouth, and he headed a shot past Virginia goalkeeper Alex Rando to provide the Panthers with a 2-0 lead and notch the first goal of his Pitt career.
The Cavaliers tightened up in the second half, but the unrelenting Panthers attack saw their defense crumble once more. Bertin Jacquesson would open up the floodgates for Pitt with a perfectly placed set-piece goal in the 68th minute, and Filip Mirkovic would tack on another less than two minutes later to put Pitt up 4-0. And with 22 seconds remaining on the clock, Bryce Washington would slot home a fifth goal to bring the game to a close.
“These guys have come through a lot,” Pitt head coach Jay Vidovich said after the game. “What they’ve done to get ready and to be in this position, the consistency; their resiliency in dealing with COVID; to hold down the fort here at Pitt, where we went undefeated; and we were road warriors as well, to see the team play like this shows that they’re getting stronger and stronger as we go through it, and they’re ready for the next challenge.”
With the ACC Coastal title now secured, the next challenge for Pitt is a rematch with Clemson, the ACC Atlantic champions, in the ACC championship game. Pitt and Clemson squared off in the fall title game in November, with the Tigers topping the Panthers 2-1. But the surging Panthers should be a tougher out this time around and can lock up the ACC’s automatic bid for the NCAA tournament with a win over the Tigers. The championship game is set to be played at 7 p.m. on April 17.