Fall Ball Focus: Pitt Primed for NCAA Debut

PHOTO COURTESY OF PITT ATHLETICS


After years spent building the Pitt program, head coach Emily Boissonneault is ready to see the fruits of her labor in action. In just a few months, the Panthers will take the field for real. But this first-year program won’t be a ragtag group of castoffs and underclassmen.

The Panthers have some serious talent.

“We were in the transfer portal every day,” Boissonneault said. “We joke that we lived there.”

Pitt’s haul from the transfer portal would have been impressive for a program with longstanding history. It’s even more eye-popping for a startup. Paige Petty, an IWLCA second-team All-American, comes in from Virginia Tech. Molly Carter, who had 15 goals and 15 assists with Syracuse in 2018, has also joined in. Paulina DiFatta, a key in Elon’s successful spring, is Pitt’s likely goalie.

It goes deeper. Julia Foster was an IWLCA Division II second-team All-American at Limestone last spring. Madisyn Kittell played big minutes for Florida. Overall, 15 transfers will help provide an identity to Pitt as it embarks on its first year in the ACC.

“The Pitt roster is an expression of what can happen with getting people in the transfer portal and good players coming in,” Navy head coach Cindy Timchal said. “They can make a statement.”

The intent is to make a statement, but Boissonneault recognizes the difficulties ahead. Pitt gets a baptism by fire in the ACC, and there will be few — if any — breaks in its schedule. The focus this fall is on building chemistry. The hope is to use that chemistry as a springboard.

“It’s hard to measure success in the ACC,” Boissonneault said. “You want to win, but not everyone can win. For us, we are going to be looking at a lot of intangibles. Execution — are we a team that can problem solve when things aren’t going right? It’s really important to me, making sure that we’re problem solvers. Ultimately, we need to control our emotions.”

Pitt will be armed with athleticism and speed in the midfield. That will very much be led by Petty, who was a scrappy, chaos-inducing force on a Virginia Tech midfield that sought to wreak havoc.

“Grit” an “toughness” are two trademarks Boissonneault thinks all her players bring.

“I’m incredibly proud of the foundation we built here,” she said.







The rest of the athletic department has already started to take notice. More and more people around the department have been stopping by practices in an attempt to learn more about the game.

An even without playing a single “real” game yet, the Panthers are earning high marks compared to other teams on campus.

“Last year, we were able to lead the athletic department in community service hours and Team GPA,” Boissonneault said. “We didn’t have games, so there weren’t many things to do, but we made an impact before we even started playing.”

Scenic Highmark Stadium will be the team’s home venue. Overlooking the city's downtown skyline from across the Monongahela River, Highmark is the type of venue that could attract fans to the field. While Pitt’s ultimate goal is to win games, growing the sport in Pittsburgh is important, too.

“Fans who come to watch are going to be able to see the city, not just the school,” Boissonneault said. “It’s an opportunity to showcase the program and showcase the city.”

With a full roster on campus, a home field locked down and a fall ball schedule in full swing, Boissonneault’s dream of starting the Pitt program are within reach. It’s all about to become a reality in the spring.

“We want to make a statement,” she said.

PITT AT A GLANCE

Madisyn Kittell appeared in 52 games for Florida, scoring 29 goals with 14 assists … Abby Thorne was a member of the U18 and U19 Australian national teams … In 2019, Therese Pitman was named an All-MAAC first-team defender … Carlie Leach scored a goal in every game she started at Oregon … Caroline Lederman, Kierin Ratliff-Kailbourne and Payton Reed were members of the 2019 Pitt club lacrosse national championship team … Maureen McNierney, now a sophomore, was the first-ever Pitt lacrosse commit.

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