Posted: November 13, 2009
LEWISBURG, Pa. – For the second straight time Lehigh and American got together the teams had trouble finding the back of the net. Following 90 minutes of scoreless regulation and two scoreless overtime sessions on Friday evening the teams headed for a shootout where the Eagles eventually came out on top 6-5 to advance to the 2009 Patriot League championship match. Lehigh’s season comes to an end at 9-5-4 while American moves to 9-6-3 and will meet the host Bucknell Bison in Sunday’s championship tilt.
“This was a really good Patriot League Tournament semifinal match between two good teams,” Mountain Hawks head coach Dean Koski said afterwards. “Both teams had good chances; unfortunately we weren’t able to knock one in. It’s always frustrating when the final outcome comes down to a shootout.”
Koski then spoke of the character his team showed in earning the tournament’s number-two seed after dropping two of its first three matches. “I’m certainly proud of the way we finished our season. I think we showed great character and tremendous maturity. To come down here (to Bucknell) needing a win to get into the tournament and to win that game in overtime shows our guys the importance of always playing to the very end. The season doesn’t come down to two games or three games, but every single game is extremely important.”
The teams were even in nearly every statistical category with Lehigh totaling 15 shots and American unleashing 14. Jesse Schram led the Mountain Hawks with four shot attempts and Cameron Petty registered three attempts for AU. Each team had five corner kicks and the two squads combined for 30 fouls.
Mountain Hawks keeper Jonathan Nydell stopped one shot in his 110 minutes of work, while Matt Makowski stopped five Lehigh shots in goal for American.
Both teams had their chances throughout regulation but the defenses were more than up to the challenge and continually stifled the opposition. Lehigh had several chances near the end of regulation including an Adam Welch header that went just over the net, while freshman Austin Decker’s shot with less than six to play also went high.
Towards the end of the first overtime there were several Mountain Hawks in front of the net who had a good look but Decker’s final shot went wide and the teams headed for a second ten-minute overtime session.
Neither team was able to muster any good chances in the second ten-minute session and that sent the teams into a shootout. It marked the second straight Patriot League Tournament match that the Mountain Hawks were involved in that went to a shootout after Lehigh and Bucknell needed extra shots to decide a winner in 2006.
James Graf took the first kick for Lehigh and was good with his attempt. That brought up Jamie Davin for the Eagles and his shot was also true. Jesse Schram, Adam Welch, and Adam Gazda then followed with successful kicks for the Mountain Hawks, while Mike Worden, Karsten Smith and Daniel Shannon kept things even with successful kicks of their own.
Neal Melchionni stepped up next for the Mountain Hawks and beat American keeper Alex Almodovar, who came in at the start of the shootout. Nick Kapus answered for AU and the teams headed for sudden victory shots. Jordie Ciuffetelli was first for the Brown and White and he rifled a ball towards the goal, unfortunately it was high, setting the stage for Cameron Petty’s winner which sent the Eagles into the title match.
Koski spoke of Lehigh’s strong senior class of Gazda, Welch, Schram, Alex Weisberger and Chris Varga. “Adam Gazda’s been here for five years and we’re going to miss him. Adam Welch and Jesse Schram have been very instrumental in our success these last four years helping to raise the respect of our program. Although Alex and Chris haven’t played as much as they would have liked they played a large role in helping to take this program to that next level. When you look at the teams we are able to compete with on a national level, Stanford, Penn State, Penn, Brown, it’s due to the efforts of those young men and it says a lot about their character and make-up. All five of them have been great and they’ll be sorely missed.”