INDIANOLA, Pa. - The Penn women's soccer team knew it was up against it Friday night in its season opener at Pitt. Facing a Big East opponent, and without its top two scorers from a year ago (both out with injuries), was not what head coach Darren Ambrose and his team had in mind to start the campaign.
Sure enough, the Panthers -- playing their fourth match of the season -- took advantage of Penn's absences, breaking a 1-1 tie with two second-half goals and pulling away, 3-1.
"This being our first match, we were not ready to play at pace, and Pitt knew that and really came after us," said Ambrose. "What was unfortunate was that Pitt's last two goals came after we had found our legs a bit and were starting to bring ourselves up to par."
The match was marked by relatively even play, as both teams took 11 shots on the night. Freshman Caroline Williams got the start in goal for the Quakers and had five saves. At the other end, Morie Kephart had seven stops to post the win.
Pitt (2-2-0) drew first blood in the 33rd minute, when Katelyn Ruhe scored a goal with assists going to Kephart and Ashley Habbel.
Penn tied it early in the second half, when freshman Ursula Lopez-Palm scored in her first collegiate match. She collected a pass from Sarah Friedman in front of the goal, and looped a shot over Kephart's head into the back of the net.
The match was tied less than five minutes, however, as Habbel took advantage of a through-ball and beat Williams.
With just under five minutes left in the match, Pitt gained the important insurance goal when Jennifer Kritch fired a shot from 10 yards out into the lower left corner. Christina Nicassio was credited with an assist on the play.
Penn remains in the Steel City region for Sunday afternoon's match against Robert Morris University. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.