Posted: September 27, 2008
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The 105th meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette on the soccer pitch could not be decided in 110 minutes of fierce action, as the teams battled to a 2-2 draw at the Ulrich Sports Complex on Saturday night.
Lafayette freshman Adam Allers had an opportunity to send the fans home early in the first overtime period, as he broke free in the first 15 seconds of extra time. The only player between him and the sudden victory was Lehigh keeper Chris Varga, but Allers’ flicked shot attempt sailed wide left.
The Mountain Hawks mounted their own assault in the waning minutes of the second overtime, firing three shots on goal in the last minute of play. When none of the shots found the back of the net, the two squads were forced to settle for a draw in their Patriot League opener.
“It’s hard,” Lehigh head coach Dean Koski said. “Obviously we wanted to get a win in our first Patriot League game, but I thought it was a very well-fought game by both teams.”
The fierce rivalry between the two schools was obvious from the outset. Four cautions were issued – three to Lafayette and one to Lehigh – and a total of 31 fouls were called throughout what was a very physically played game.
The Leopards got the scoring started early, in just the fourth minute of play. Stephen Macurdy launched a free kick from 25 yards into the box that set up perfectly for Nick Leigh to put a header by Varga.
The Mountain Hawks did not sulk with the early deficit, and they battled back with several chances in the first period. The constant efforts paid off in the 21st minute when Neal Melchionni pushed the ball hard up the left sideline. Melchionni had a small window to fire a cross, but he managed to slip the ball past the diving Lafayette keeper. Adam Gazda was waiting on the other side, and the Lehigh captain drove the shot home to tie the score.
The Leopards would reclaim the momentum less than two minutes later when Justin Kamine broke free for the unassisted goal. But once again, the Brown and White would answer. This time it was Matt McNeil who came up with the loose ball in front of the Lafayette net. For the third time in the last two games, McNeil took advantage of an opportunity and scored the tying goal.
“They found a way to fight back to get level at the end of the half,” Koski said. “Our guys competed well. I’m pleased that they didn’t fold and pack it in mentally.”
The Mountain Hawks return to action on Sunday, October 4, when they travel to Annapolis, Md. to take on the Navy Midshipmen.
Lehigh Men's Soccer Highlights vs. Lafayette, September 27, 2008