Herd goalkeeper makes smooth transition to Division I


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From Sao Paulo, Brazil, with a stop in Charleston, West Virginia, goalkeeper Paulo Pita found his new home with Marshall men’s soccer, and he has started all of its matches this season.

Pita is a native of Santos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he said soccer means everything.

“Soccer is such a big thing in Brazil,” Pita said. “I had the opportunity to play at the highest level there, but in Brazil, we don’t get the chance to go to school and play soccer, as well.”

At the age of 19, he said he wanted to pursue a degree while getting to play the sport he loves. Pita then headed to the University of Charleston where he played soccer from 2016 to 2017. Approximately 5,000 miles away from home, Pita is making the most of his time in the United States.

The redshirt junior joined the Thundering Herd fresh off two-straight Division II national championship appearances with the Charleston Golden Eagles men’s soccer team in 2016 and 2017.

“Going to Charleston was really good for me,” Pita said. “Because now I walk on this field, I walk around Marshall, on campus every single day, and I see how big this opportunity is for me.”

Pita Finished the 2016 season with an 8-0-2 record, made 30 saves and allowed six goals in 895 minutes-played. Pita had a 0.60 goal-against average and a .833 save percentage, and the team was runner-up in the 2016 Division II national champion runner-up. He was the main starter in goal for the Division II national champion Eagles in 2017 with 2,100 minutes in net and a record of 20-1-2. He also recorded 16 shutouts, allowed eight goals on 52 saves and featured a 0.34 goals-against average and a .867 save percentage.

“(Paulo) got to a certain level during 2016 for me, and he’s kind of maintained that level,” Marshall head coach Chris Grassie said.

Even though Pita has not been a part of Marshall men’s soccer for long, he has made an immediate impact for the Thundering Herd.

“I think it is that presence, and he does the simple things well,” Grassie said. “He can also make the game-changing saves, and he gives the confidence to the staff and the players—knowing that he is always going to look after them.”

This season, Pita has 1,042 minutes and started all 11 matches as goalkeeper of the Thundering Herd. In that time, Pita has recorded 35 saves and a .700 save percentage along with a 1.32 goals-against average. Pita has recorded shutouts this season against Duquesne, Ohio State, Dayton and Purdue Fort Wayne.

Grassie was a familiar face when he welcomed Pita to Marshall. Pita played under Grassie during his freshman season at the University of Charleston and he was a key factor in Pita’s decision to come to Marshall.

“I feel really comfortable playing for (Grassie),” Pita said. “I feel like I’ve never changed schools.”

Grassie said he is also happy to have Pita on his 2018 squad.

“He is very reassuring to have, he’s a very good goalkeeper and player,” Grassie said. “I feel very steady with him there.”

Along with the familiar face of Grassie, Pita was drawn into Marshall because of the higher competition at the Division I level.

“I feel like they make sure they get everything we need to do well, to perform well,” Pita said. “Even though the University of Charleston was a high level of soccer, I feel like the (Conference USA) itself is higher and harder, as well.”

When he is not on the pitch, Pita is in the classroom teaching younger athletes how to better their skills in the net and getting as much rest as he can.

“I go to school every day, go to work and help teach kids the game of soccer,” Pita said. “When I am on the field, I am trying to give 100 percent of myself.”

Abbi Pritchard can be contacted at [email protected]