Thursday, August 11 2022

Many schools establish pipelines to nearby states, aiming to win the recruiting battle for the region’s top talents. Head coach Jay Vidovich’s strong pipeline has come up huge in the postseason for his Panthers, but that one’s a little unconventional: it goes across the ocean.

Pitt cruised past Hofstra in the NCAA Tournament Third Round on Saturday 4-0, thanks to three goals by Panthers who hail from a different red, white, and blue.

Pitt’s four players hailing from France have proven invaluable in the team’s two NCAA tournament matches. Of the nine goals the Panthers have put in the back of the net, eight have come off a Frenchman’s score or assist.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Vidovich said. “They fit in, they’re very good students, they’ve been educated in the soccer system in France, and they’ve been tremendous people too.”

Hofstra (18-2-2) may not have received a national seed by the NCAA selection committee, but the team came into Ambrose Urbanic Field hotter than ever. The Pride have scored the most goals in college soccer this season and obliterated Penn State 8-2 on the Nittany Lions’ home turf in the Second Round.

The Panthers welcomed the return of leading-scorer Rodrigo Almeida on Saturday, who missed the previous three matches nursing a hamstring injury. But the Brazilian senior struck misfortune again, painfully grabbing that same muscle after a collision with Hofstra goalkeeper Wessell Speel late in the first half. Almeida immediately subbed out, and didn’t reenter the match the rest of the night.

“That was just tragic,” Vidovich said. “You could see what a factor he is for us. It is going back to that hamstring issue, and we’re not sure the extent of it now. That will be assessed in the morning and next week.”

Dominating possession in the first half, the Panthers could only get one goal to show for it. Taking a pass from Valentin Noel, Pitt midfielder Filip Mirkovic launched one from over 30 feet out, putting his team on the board first.

Raphael Crivello, who provided pressure all night with multiple lasers from the back line, found the net for just the second time all season early in the second half.

As the flakes began to fall, Pitt snowballed its lead. Bertin Jacquesson netted a beautiful outside strike in the 63rd minute, and Crivello notched his second goal of night after consecutive blocked attempts.

As a defender, Crivello doesn’t have many opportunities to celebrate his own goal-scoring, and admitted it felt pretty nice to do it twice on Saturday. The fact that it came at home made it even sweeter.

“I scored once this season, but it was away,” he said. “Scoring at home in front of the whole crowd and such an important goal like this during the tournament, it’s really important for me. I really hope that it happens again.”

Goalkeeper Nico Campuzano continued to provide an unbreakable wall the rest of the night for the Panthers, notching his sixth clean sheet of the season. Vidovich credited Campuzano for shutting down one of the nation’s top offenses, but said it was a full-team effort.

“Our attackers did a really good job of putting pressure on their delivery,” he said. “The backs did a great job of denying service into the box.”

Pitt (13-5-1) advances to the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 8 for the second straight season, where it will face the winner of Wake Forest and Notre Dame’s Sunday matchup. It’ll present a revenge opportunity either way, as the Panthers fell to the Demon Deacons in the regular season and the Fighting Irish eliminated them from the NCAA Tournament.

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