Many professional athletes claim to experience a similar phenomenon.

Landy Mertz is no different.

It happened for the 23-year-old Upper St. Clair native and Pitt women’s soccer product, while she was sitting on the North Carolina Courage bench awaiting her first action in the National Women’s Soccer League late last month.

Mertz said she heard the words, “Landy, let’s go” and was suddenly thrust into the fray in the 84th minute of a May 24 game in Houston against the Dash at Shell Energy Stadium.

“I remember my whole lower half, I swear, it just went numb when they called my name,” Mertz said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I think part of it was nerves. The other part was I was shocked and I wasn’t expecting it at all having been on the bench for 11 games before that — it just kind of came out of nowhere.

“They always tell you be ready when your number is called,” she added. “I knew that I could be as ready as I could and still be shocked when it happened.”

Mertz is now one of three former WPIAL players currently on an NWSL roster. She joins Meghan Klingenberg, a Pine-Richland graduate and 2015 FIFA World Cup champion with the U.S. Women’s National Team, and Veronica Latsko, a Peters Township graduate and former Virginia women’s soccer standout, as players in the top women’s professional league in the United States.

Klingenberg plays for the Portland Thorns, while Latsko is a member of the Seattle Reign.

“This whole entire experience has just been unbelievable,” Mertz said.

Since being selected with the 52nd pick in the fourth round of the NWSL draft in January, Mertz has ingratiated herself well with her new franchise, said third-year Courage assistant coach Emma Thomson.

“She comes consistently positive, with a positive mindset, every day to training, smile on her face, same strong work ethic that she brings every day,” said Thomson, a native of England, who in four seasons at Penn State helped lead the Nittany Lions to four Big Ten championships and a conference tournament title. “She’s a joy.”

Mertz first rose to prominence locally as a member of South Hills-based travel team Century United and at Upper St. Clair, where she scored 56 career high school goals.

After a one-year stint at Dayton, where she was named to the Atlantic 10 Conference All-Rookie team, Mertz transferred to Pitt and helped the Panthers become a powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference program.

Mertz scored 15 goals and added 26 assists during her four seasons as a midfielder in Oakland, while registering 172 shots — 91 on goal.

During her time at Pitt, Mertz was part of a core group of players which led the Panthers to their first NCAA tournament berth in school history in 2021 and a pair of postseason victories in 2022. Pitt had its deepest postseason run in school history last fall, as Mertz and the Panthers advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals.

Mertz finished her career at Pitt last season with 14 assists, 0.58 per game, which were both good for top 10 nationally. She started 23 of Pitt’s 24 games in 2023, scoring four goals with 58 shots, 33 on target, before joining teammate Amanda West as the first Panthers ever to be selected in the same NWSL draft class.

West was drafted by the Houston Dash.

“You sort of look at it and you’re like, ‘Well, I was on one of the top collegiate teams in the country’ and you look at some of the girls who go straight from college to the NWSL, the rookies that are playing, the big-name girls in college, and you’re like if she can do it, I can do it type of thing,” Mertz said. “What I’ve learned, too, is it really is a big jump — it really, really is — and probably more so than I was even expecting.”

Thomson said her production and constant development at Pitt led the Courage to become comfortable with drafting and then eventually signing Mertz to a three-year contract in March.

“The players love her,” Thomson said. “She’s settled in well, not just on the field, but off the field in the locker room, which is so important. Consistent, you always know what you’re going to get with Landy. No. 1 is her work ethic, you know exactly what you’re going to get day in, day out on the training field and that was a big reason why she got a chance to make her debut.

“She’s proven herself in training on a consistent basis and we knew exactly what we would get out of her when we put her on the field.”

Thomson said Mertz naturally excels in her ability to play balls into the box, especially from the right side of the field, consistently and accurately. She added that her pace is also exceptional.

To take the next step in her development, Thomson said gaining experience with the Courage and learning the team’s system will pay huge dividends. She said she expects Mertz to acclimate herself to the pace of play in the NWSL well over time.

“I think she’s got the ability to be the face of our franchise, or any franchise really, hopefully it’s with us of course,” Thomson said. “I think the players that have the longevity in this league are not necessarily the quickest, strongest, most technical players, but they’re the most resilient. We say availability is the best ability. It’s a good way of looking at it.”

Since making her debut in Houston, Mertz has appeared in her second game of the season June 15 at the Courage’s home Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., against Orlando.

While she has only yet to appear in seven minutes of action over two games, Mertz said she is pleased with her progress and looking forward to gaining more playing time as her season and career moves forward.

“For me it’s been just such a blessing,” she said. “I’m in an environment that’s challenging me every single day to get better and that’s exactly what I wanted out of this experience. Really, regardless of minutes or anything like that, I couldn’t be happier being here.

“The staff is really awesome. The players are really awesome. This organization as a whole, I think, is just amazing,” she added. “They’ve really welcomed me and helped me to grow a lot and given me opportunities that I didn’t think were coming for a long time.”

Landy Mertz, an Upper St. Clair native and Pitt graduate, reunites with her former Panthers teammate Amanda West, right, before their National Women’s Soccer League game in May. The pair were the first Pitt players ever to be selected in the same NWSL draft this year. Mertz plays for the North Carolina Courage and West is on the Houston Dash roster. (Courtesy of Katie Schroeck/NC Courage)

Mertz said she takes pride in her work ethic and ability to provide an example for other young soccer players across Western Pennsylvania and beyond.

“It’s very meaningful for me to be able to hopefully tell my story in that way to younger girls and younger players — boys, girls, whatever — to prove you can do it,” she said. “You just have to be resilient, persistent and just keep going even when it gets really hard.”

And that’s just what Mertz said she will continue to do.

“I don’t think my goal has ever been to be the next Alex Morgan, and be that type of high-profile player,” Mertz said. “For me, it’s just always been about being in an environment that I enjoy where I can play soccer and enjoy my life and live my life. It’s been so cool having this as a job.”

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

John Santa

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at