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June 12, 2013

The University of Pittsburgh men's soccer team celebrates a special anniversary this year - 60 seasons on the Pitt campus. That anniversary coincides with the team's first campaign in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Head Coach Joe Luxbacher will field a squad of 13 newcomers this season, along with returning six starters and welcoming 13 newcomers. Coach Lux, who starts his 30th season at the helm of Pitt this fall, had this to say on the spring season and what's ahead for the Panthers.

Q: What team goals did you set prior to the spring season? and what improvement did you see as the spring progressed (both individually and collectively)?

A:  Our emphasis was on improving our individual and collective performance, both on attack and defense.  We trained very hard on the field and in the weight room, but we also spent more time in the video/lecture room,  making sure that everyone was on the same page as to what the roles of each player are when we are defending, and then how those roles change when we win the ball and transition to the attack. 

Overall I feel that the team made great progress, particularly with respect to team defense, which is critical for success when playing an a league as strong as ours.  All top teams are strong defensively, and much of attacking success feeds off of sound team defense.  The ACC is rated the #1 soccer conference in Division I NCAA, so we must be prepared to compete successfully at that level.

Q: What is the focus for the squad during the summer months?

A: Almost all of our players are competing in competitive leagues, whether it be PDL  or a similar set up.   

Their goal is to improve – play at a competitive level, stay very fit, and hopefully come into camp in August injury free and ready to play their best.  We have a good group of men – they are committed to the team and to Pitt,  and have bought in to what we are trying to accomplish.  They realize there are no shortcuts to success. 

Q: You will field for the second year in a row, a very young squad. What growth did you see from the group last year?

A: We may be young in terms of age,  but I feel we have an experienced group who have played through a couple of Big East seasons, and it does not get any tougher than that.  We played 8 nationally ranked teams last year,  four of which were in the top 10, so that experience will hopefully reap benefits down the line. 

We have added a strong incoming class, to strengthen some of the areas where we needed more quality and added depth, so those players will add positive elements to our team as well.  I believe that our group has matured both physically and also with their mental approach to the game..  in short, I am very confident that we are a better team.

Q: You played in the extremely competitive Big East and move to the ACC this fall? What new challenges will you face and describe the excitement level.

A:  The teams we play and the sites will be different, but the level of competition will be the same.  The Big East last year had four teams ranked in the Top 10 nationally for most of the year – I believe three teams advanced to the final eight in the NCAA tournament -  and Georgetown went to the national championship game… and despite that, the ACC is ranked as the #1 soccer conference going into 2013.   So the challenge is there in front of us,  but that is what makes competitive sport so attractive – our guys are excited, they are working hard, and we are all looking forward to the challenge.

Men's Socccer Q&A With Head Coach Joe Luxbacher

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