So close, but stopped again.
For the second consecutive season, the Washington men’s soccer team saw its season end in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, falling to No. 2 overall seed Pittsburgh 3-0 on Monday in Cary, North Carolina.
The Huskies (14-4), the No. 7 overall seed, lost to eventual champion Georgetown 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament last season. The Huskies have reached the final eight three times (2013, 2019, 2021), but have yet to reach the College Cup, college soccer’s version of the Final Four.
After a scoreless first half, Pittsburgh star Valentin Noel scored from close in on a header in the 52nd minute. Then, with UW goalkeeper Sam Fowler having left his goal to help with the attack, the Panthers scored two goals — from 40 yards and 50 yards — into an unprotected net in the final 130 seconds.
The final score certainly wasn’t indicative of how competitive the match was. After Pitt (16-3) took the 1-0 lead, the Huskies had several excellent chances to score the equalizer.
Perhaps the best chance was in the 77th minute when Lucas Meek hit a shot that seemed destined for the corner of the goal. But before it reached the goal line, it was deflected by an unsuspecting UW teammate who was rushing forward.
The first half was uneventful by comparison.
Pittsburgh, which scored 10 goals in its first two NCAA tournament games, nearly scored in the 26th minute when a shot hit the top of the cross bar, then had two more good chances shortly after but Fowler made a couple of nice saves.
Washington’s Ryan Sailor nearly had a goal in the 33rd minute, but his header hit the top of the cross bar. That was the only shot by Washington in the first half, which Pittsburgh mostly controlled.
The Panthers had six shots in the first half, including three on goal.
The Huskies had a few good chances to convert in the first five minutes of the second half, but didn’t. Pittsburgh got its first good chance of the second half a couple minutes later and didn’t miss.
Valentin, close to the net, redirected Jasper Loeffelsend’s cross into the goal with his head.
Fowler never had a chance, and the Huskies never recovered, despite taking nine shots in the second half, including four shots on goal.