Onward Pitt Men’s Soccer!

Another timely and helpful piece by Tex… The next match (win) will be plays against #7 Washington own in NC. Good luck young men!

Coach Jay once remarked that he had dogs in attendance at home soccer matches and appreciated their support. But I think if Pitt wins today against Washington and moves on to the semi-finals known as the College Cup, students, alumni and human fans might just outnumber our canine fans for a change.

Pitt is coming off a very impressive win over UCF in the Sweet 16 and cruised to a 4 to nil victory. Pitt almost made it look easy. Pitt’s offense is clicking and their goalkeeper is coming up with big saves.

Today’s opponent is Washington. This game will feature a great offensive team in Pitt going against a very fundamentally sound defensive team. Washington’s strength is up the middle starting with their Hermann semi-finalist player Dylan Teves. Much like Pitt’s Noel, the offense goes through him. He has 7 goals and 5 assists on the year but more importantly four game winning goals.

The Huskies also have the PAC 10 Defensive Player of the Year in Charlie Ostren, who not only plays solid defense but is a key contributor to the offense dishing out assists.

Washington has a very good goalkeeper who  has a 80 percent save percentage. Washington was second in conference in goals against average and shutouts. 

This year they played an abbreviated schedule due to Covid. Only six PAC 10 schools participated in soccer. Washington has beaten both the ranked Stanford and Oregon State teams this year and this will be their second straight trip to the quarterfinals. They are coached by Jamie Clark. He’s been coach for nine years and is the three time coach of the year in the conference.

Washington’s team is comprised of local talent. It has few if any international students unlike Pitt. Washington is known for playing very sound and organized defense. They like to possess the ball and then pick their opportunities. Washington tries to dictate the pace and tempo of the game on their opponents.   

Here are some keys to the game:

Husky Keys:


1) Bend but don’t break. Pitt will attempt to blitz Washington with shots. Washington needs to make sure Pitt takes few quality shots. Make sure the shots that Pitt does get off are coming from outside the box.


2) Keep the game close. If Washington gets behind early, it will change their game plan. Ideally, Washington will need to score first to have a real good chance at taking this game. Playing with the lead will allow them to double down on their defense.


3) Ball possession. Control the clock and prevent Pitt from possessing the ball. Washington can dictate the flow of the game and prevent a dangerous Pitt team from getting the ball. I expect Washington to use a 4-5-1 formation which can easily morph into a 4-4-2 when on the attack

Panther Keys:


1) Score first. The game dynamics change with Pitt in the lead. It will force Washington to bring players forward and commit to offense. Washington is far more comfortable playing defense. Pitt will find more scoring opportunities with a lead.


2) Capitalize on set plays. Washington has players that can prevent counter attacks and when their defense is set, it is tough to break through. So direct kicks and corner kicks could provide Pitt with its best scoring chances.


3) Press high. Make it difficult for Washington to clear the ball. Pressing helps keep the possession on Washington’s side of the field. It will help disrupt what the Huskys want to do which is control play in the center of the pitch.

I expect a very competitive and close match. But Washington hasn’t faced a team all year with the offensive firepower of Pitt. Pitt can score in so many different ways and by so many different players. However, Pitt could be without their star defenseman due to injury from their last match. But I believe Pitt has the depth and player quality to overcome this loss.

My prediction:

Pitt 3
Washington 1

Pitt avenges the ladies volleyball team and moves on to the semi finals.

HAIL TO PITT!

Pitt Soccer vs North Carolina Gameday Thread

Here is another good Pitt soccer article by Tex. The game will be played at 3pm on Thursday, May 6th. It should be live streamed for free on the North Carolina website. 

For the first time in Pitt soccer history, Pitt has reached the land of sugar plum fairies called the Sweet 16. In Pitt’s previous playoff game, they demolished Monmouth 6-1. Six different players scored for Pitt in four different ways. Off a corner kick, off the head, off the foot and a penalty kick. Once the nervousness and rust shook off, the Panthers roared to a resounding victory. 

But Thursdays opponent will be a stiffer test. Pitt faces the UCF Knights. A team that won the AAC championship. They are ranked 18 coming off a win against James Madison in the playoffs. This is UCF’s second consecutive trip back to the Sweet 16. They are experienced. 

UCF is led by Coach Calebrese who is in his 4th year. He is building the Knights into a solid national power. He, like Pitt’s Coach Jay, loves a good offense. Calebrese’s teams were ranked in the top ten nationally across all major offensive categories prior to this past covid year. However UCF did lose their two time offensive player of the year due to graduation. This year UCF has beaten a good SMU team three times and won over Tulsa in the conference championship. 

International players dominate the starting lineup for the Knights much like the Panthers. Euros, South Americans and a few Israelis. There are four players that have scored four or more goals so they have balanced scoring. And their goalkeeper makes 90 percent of his saves which is outstanding. The team seems to turn things on during the second half since their shots and goals increase substantially. This team doesn’t fall asleep at halftime and makes proper adjustments. They are well coached. 

Below is what I see are keys for the game for both schools:

UCF keys for the Game

1) stop Valentin Noel. Noel is Pitt’s dynamic Central midfielder in a 4-3-3 formation. The offense goes through him. He is the third highest goal scorer in the nation. If UCF can disrupt his game and throw his timing off, Pitt’s offense will stall down

2) play a defensive and physical game. Clemson showed the soccer world how to stymy Pitt. It was through some very tough defense and physicality. I wouldn’t be surprised if UCF came out in a 5-3-2 formation with a midfielder and defender always around Noel. 

3) get a great performance from your keeper. For UCF to have a chance, the Knights have to keep the game close and hope the game goes into overtime or a penalty shootout. UCF doesn’t have the players to run and shoot with the Panthers. UCF can’t afford to get behind early in this game. 

Panther Keys for the Game

1) get Noel involved early and often. Pitt has to keep running the offense through him. He will be a marked Frenchman, but Pitt has to find a way to give him the space he needs to be dangerous

2) press and counterattack. A good defense can generate offensive scoring chances. I think this is where Pitt can be successful. A high press could cause some mistakes by UCF that could be quickly capitalized on. Pitt also has the offensive players for quick counterattack’s where it’s difficult for UCF to set up and organize their defense. 

3) special teams. Pitt will get its share of corner and free kicks. It needs to cash in on these opportunities. These set plays always have the defense at a disadvantage. Pitt is actually very good at this. 

Pitt’s team is loaded with some very skilled offensive players. Pitt has good depth and they are the number 2 seed for a reason. They are legit. This game against UCF will be a sterner test but I expect Pitt to pass it and move on to the quarterfinals with a matchup looming against Washington. 

I’m predicting a Pitt lead of 1-0 at halftime. Final score as Pitt 3, UCF 1

Some links:

https://www.ncaa.com/brackets/soccer-men/d1/2021

https://pittsburghsoccernow.com/2021/05/02/postgame-reaction-head-coach-jay-vidovich-after-pitt-advances-to-sweet-16-for-first-time-ever/

https://pittsburghpanthers.com/sports/mens-soccer

A Overview of Pitt Sports Today…

Tex is kicking them out my friends – here is his work on Pitt’s sports right now…

I guess we can all use a feel good story now right?  A story that distracts us from the mediocrity that is Pitt football, the dumpster fire that is Pitt basketball and the police blotter. 

Well, we just saw the women’s volleyball team make a spirited run in the playoffs. They were literally one point away from reaching the Final Four. Men’s soccer is a #2 seed in the playoffs and just demolished their first-round opponent. Pitt plays this Thursday afternoon against Central Florida. The winner will most likely play Washington in the quarterfinals. Remember them?  Then there has been a very respectable showing by the men’s track team this year. Remarkable performance given their facilities issue. 

But what I wanted to talk about is the surprise of the year. Pitts men’s baseball. Below is an article for background. 

If you look at Pitt’s roster, it’s not remarkable. Few if any pro prospects. No All Americans. No highly recruited players. But baseball is a team sport, and the collective has produced some great chemistry. Timely hitting, good defense, good base running, solid pitching. All those fundamental skills are carrying this team. And Pitt is very consistent about it. 

That’s discipline. That’s coaching right there. And coach Bell is truly a godsend. Pitt has also generated many memorable comebacks this year. It’s tough to keep this team down. They always seem to bounce back. Kudos to Heather for finding this assistant from Florida state. 

Now there’s several weeks left in the season concluding with the ACC championships at the end of the month. Pitts last two series were cancelled due to covid protocols. But Pitt is ranked anywhere between 14th and 21st depending on the poll. 

If this holds, there is an excellent shot that Pitt will be a #2 seed at regionals. Pitt hasn’t gone to a regional playoff since 1995. Right now, projections have Pitt either in Lubbock or Knoxville when regionals begin in June. If they win their group, there are four schools per group, they advance to the super regionals. And then it’s on to the college World Series. 

Below is an article on how the playoffs work in college baseball. This projection has Pitt in Eugene. There are 16 regional sites. The top 16 ranked schools host. So, a starting field of 64. Super regionals are the eight schools that advance from their pods. The World Series in the Final 4 in Omaha. 

https://www.collegesportsmadness.com/baseball/bracketology

And yet another one with Pitt projected as a #2 seed in South Carolina. As you can see, there’s constant movement and we won’t know until selection day once all the conference championships conclude. 

https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/2021-ncaa-baseball-tournament-projected-field-of-64-42821/

Pitt plays in Morgantown this Wednesday against the hated Hoopies. 

The ACC is typically a strong conference in baseball. Pitt already won the series against FSU but lost the three game series against ND. Louisville’s series were recently cancelled. 

Pitt doesn’t have the best facilities. It has some real bad weather in late winter and early spring hindering practices and forcing the cancellations of games. There’s not much baseball talent around the Pittsburgh area. But Pitt has found a way this year to exceed expectations. And I attribute this success story to the remarkable coaching job that Coach Bell and staff have done. 

How’s that for feel good?

H2P!

BASEBALL RINGING (with coach) BELL

Here is Erie Express’ take on our baseball team and its game tonight… Thanks Rick!

As of today, Pitt has not played their last two series due to COVID-19 protocols.  The first series missed was with Top 5 Louisville (ranking at the time of the series) and the second missed series was with Northern Kentucky this past weekend.  In the midst of not playing, Pitt has risen to 1st place in the Coastal division.

Tonight, our Coach Bell-lead baseball team will visit Morgantown, WV to play the Backyard Brawl with the beloved Mountaineers at 6:30pm.  WVU started the season ranked in the top 25, but have fallen short of the early pollster’s anticipated success and stand at 15-21 overall.  One of those Hoopie losses was at the hands of our Panthers by 5-1 at Cost Field on April 6th.  In that game, Pitt’s # 3 starter (IMO), senior Chris Gomez pitched well and garnered his 2nd win of the season.  I expect we may see Gomez again tonight.

Pitt needs this non-ACC game to shake off the rust and get back into a positive groove for this weekend’s series with BC at the friendly confines of Cost Field.

The last game Pitt played was on April 18th in a loss to UNC (9-10) after taking the first 2 games from the Tar Heels in that series.

The Panther’s series losses this season were to Duke (losing 2 of 3 games), VT (lost all 3 games to a freshmen laced line-up) and to ND (losing 2 of 3 games).  To date, Pitt has played (8) ACC series, so they are 5-3 in ACC series, 14-10 in conference games and 20-11 overall.

There are (three) ACC series left on the schedule (nine games), provided the Louisville series is NOT made up (as currently being reported).  HC Bell needs to rely on his veteran line-up and two ace pitchers to put the COVID mid-season interruption behind them and win the next two series with BC and NC State who are currently the bottom two teams in the Atlantic division.

The leaders on this team are clearly seniors Nico Popa OF and  David Yanni 2B. 

Nico Popa

Popa is currently hitting a team high .351 with 8 home runs in the 31 games he has started and is the # 2 hitter in the line-up.  Yanni has struggled with his bat after getting injured in the VT series, yet he has not missed a game and is currently hitting .241 with a team high 9 home runs.  The COVID break may have been good for Yanni and Pitt needs his bat to get hot in these final (3) series to steer the team to a regional series.

The two ace pitchers are both transfers and in their 1st year with Pitt.  Junior Mitch Myers has a 3.14 ERA (earned run average) with a 3-4 W-L record in 9 starts, but he has lost some low scoring games where the Pitt bats failed to produce. 

Another junior, Matt Gilbertson has a 3.53 ERA and is 5-3 in 9 starts.  Both average 6.5 innings per start and have numerous games with a 100+ pitch count.  The bullpen is suspect with an ERA above 4.50, but senior reliever Jordan McCrum has emerged as a reliable closer with 4 saves and a 1.96 ERA.

The Panthers look for a Backyard Brawl sweep tonight, but more importantly take the field to try to recapture the magic of the season to date after a long COVID related break from meaningful baseball.

In other related baseball news per PSN, the Orioles called up from their Double A squad, Erie native and Pitt alumni Issac Mattson to join their pitching staff

Editors Note: I’m done screwing around with the crap I’m reading in the comments. You all know my (our) standards for commenting on here. Anything outside of those and a few things will happen – I will not long address comments that are held back by WordPress for “moderation”, instead I will automatically delete them and ban the commenter.

Personally, I find it objectionable to see the ethnic slurs and name calling that end up posted on the site, and despite the large number of posters and readers I doubt that the Pitt Athletic Administration treats The Pitt POV with respect if they dial in and read some of the nasty comments being written about Narduzzi.  Commenters can attack his competence, recruiting and record, but the ethnic slurs and name calling are over the top, so stop doing it.

The race baiting stuff on here in the last article was way over the top and racism, sexism and anything I (and I alone) feel is inappropriate will be dealt with more harshly than in the past.

Don’t know how many time I can say the same things folks…

Mike’s Take on the Spring Game

Spring Game Optimism

Michaelangelo Monteleone

You know it only takes a few months away from Pitt football for that old optimism to come creeping back in.  And all through spring camp I’ve been observing things from the casual fan’s perspective, which I’ll admit has been pretty damn nice, compared to the day-in-and-day-out grind of running the POV.  It all culminated yesterday when I found myself listening to Chris Peak’s “What did we learn from the spring game” podcast, because hey, I wanted to learn what he learned from the spring game.  (Link to Podcast here – worth a listen, even if the content is a tad bit optimistic). 

Peak spends most of his time talking about the offense.  Because lets admit it, that’s what we all care about.  (And lets also admit that’s where Pitt’s problems have been.)  And then he gets into the quarterbacks, Patti 7-for-10 and a couple of TD’s.  Beville 6-for-6 and a TD strike.  Yellen and The New Guy…well, not so good.

And it got me to thinking, hey the two backup QB’s who have spent two years (plus a spring) in Whipple’s system played pretty damn well.  The two guys who have spent a year or less played pretty damn poorly.  And it got me to thinking, maybe it just takes a few years for a QB to really learn Whip’s offense.

And so, the analyst in me decided to look at UMass to see if I could ferret out a trend.

Oh the optimism…

Here’s what Sports-Reference.com had to say about all the UMass QB’s who played under Whipple (2014 – 2018).

First, Marshall transfer Blake Frohnapfel:

So….transfer QB comes in with limited snaps at his prior stop, and his QB rating goes down significantly.  Sound familiar? 

Now, here are Pitt’s Joey Yellen’s stats:

Now Yellen played against two of Pitt’s tougher opponents last year (Miami and Notre Dame), so there is that.  But…the spring game.  He’s slow of foot, and his arm doesn’t seem all that strong.  He’s also just one year into Whipple’s system.  What does he look like after two?  After three?  Time shall tell.  Frohnapfel only had two years, so who knows what he could have done.

Meanwhile, Andrew Ford was a Whipple recruit who clearly progressed in year three. Here are his stats while at UMASS:

Andrew Ford

Case in point – Ford posted a very Kenny Pickett-esque 138 rating in 2016 (his second year under Whipple as a Sophomore).  In his third year?  Well that rating jumped up to 151.  It looks like Ford got hurt in year four, and his numbers regressed a bit, so maybe the theory doesn’t exactly hold.  Or does it?  Was Ford playing hurt before he went out after game 7?

Ford’s replacement was Senior Ross Comis, who incidentally was in his fourth year under Whipple, and looked to be in time share situation with Ford throughout the season, based on number of games played.  Comis’ 2018 QB rating?  A gaudy 161.5.

So look, there are a LOT of factors that go into QB rating.  Receivers and Tight Ends catching the ball is a big one.  Andrew Ford and Ross Comis enjoyed the services of ex-PSU Tight End Adam Breneman and 4th round NFL draft pick, WR Andy Isabella.  Kenny Pickett and company enjoy the services of no Tight End in particular and a ragtag bunch of three-star WR’s, the best of whom was a true freshman last season.  Perhaps that will change this year.  (Optimism?) 

Offensive line is another factor.  I corresponded with a UMASS sports journalist back when Whipple was hired, and the word on the street was that Whipple never had a good O Line.  Well guess what?  Until we see evidence to the contrary, neither does Pitt.  And as we all know, it all starts with those Big Palookas Up front.  So, here’s to optimism around that too.  May your summer be filled with visions of upright Pitt quarterbacks completing passes.  Preferably in the endzone.  At least until Reed writes his next article. 

Hail to Pitt

Pitt’s 2021 Spring Game Recap

Good afternoon,

See attached for stats from today’s Pitt Blue-Gold Spring Game presented by PNC Bank that finished Gold 30, Blue 0 at Heinz Field.

Photos for media from the game can be accessed and downloaded at this link:

https://pitt.box.com/s/3vm20by1xmz7hxkuuqsvggcd70w6ccbz

Video of the postgame press conference is available at this link:

https://pitt.box.com/s/bn7enoese5bmphf7v4zq9x1d404wydiz

The postgame press conference included sessions with the following members of the Pitt football program:

·        Head Coach Pat Narduzzi

·        LB #24 Phil Campbell II (Gold Team captain)

·        TE #7 Lucas Krull (Gold Team Captain)

·        LB #0 John Petrishen (Blue Team, Conway Award winner)

·        RB #2 Israel Abanikanda (Blue Team, Conway Award winner)

Post-Gazette:

https://www.post-gazette.com/sports/Pitt/2021/04/24/Pitt-football-Blue-Gold-spring-game-takeaways-Israel-Abanikanda-Davis-Beville-Joey-Yellen-Nick-Patti-MJ-Devonshire-Ben-Sauls/stories/202104240044

Trib: Not Spring Game but interesting:

https://triblive.com/sports/pitts-izzy-abanikanda-john-petrishen-named-conway-award-winners-as-most-improved-players-in-spring-drills/

PGH Sports Now website:

https://pittsburghsportsnow.com/2021/04/24/beville-patti-lead-gold-to-30-0-rout-in-pitt-spring-game/

https://pittsburghsportsnow.com/2021/04/24/postgame-reaction-from-the-2021-pitt-blue-gold-game/

Pitt’s Sports Page:

https://pittsburghpanthers.com/news/2021/4/24/football-gold-shuts-out-blue-in-pitt-spring-game-30-0.aspx

PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh football program hosted 5,000 fans on Saturday at Heinz Field for the 2021 Pitt Blue-Gold Spring Game presented by PNC Bank – and spectators witnessed a dominating performance by the Gold Team.

Gold shut out Blue, 30-0, with a comprehensive performance on both sides of the ball. The teams were selected by team captains earlier in the week in a draft-by-position format.

Gold Team captain Lucas Krull scored the first touchdown of the game on a 26-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Nick Patti, and they never looked back.

Also scoring for Gold, Jared Wayne caught a 25-yard TD from Davis Beville, who scored on a 1-yard rush as well. Todd Sibley Jr. completed the scoring for the victors.

Gold’s defense preserved the shutout thanks to two turnovers, with Dayon Hayes recovering a fumble and A.J. Woods hauling in a diving interception.

Pitt’s returning starting quarterback Kenny Pickett, one of the Blue Team captains, played just three snaps before exiting the game in a planned move.

Blue Team was sparked by running back Israel Abanikanda, who produced a game-high 77 rushing yards, including an electric 42-yard burst around the outside.

After the game, head coach Pat Narduzzi, the Gold Team’s winning captains – tight end Lucas Krull and linebacker Phil Campbell III – and Pitt’s Ed Conway Award winners as the most improved players of spring drills – running back Israel Abanikanda and linebacker John Petrishen – each met with the media.

Pitt begins its 2021 regular season at home against Massachusetts on Saturday, Sept. 4 at Heinz Field.”