Posted: November 15, 2006
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh added to its record setting 2006 campaign, as the Mountain Hawks advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament topping Rhode Island 5-4 on penalty kicks after the teams played to a 1-1 draw Wednesday night in front of a record crowd of 1,271 at the Ulrich Sports Complex. After trailing 1-0 with less than ten minutes remaining, the Mountain Hawks evened the score at 1-1 off a goal by sophomore Adam Gazda in order to force overtime, and senior goalkeeper Jim Morahan stopped a pair of penalty kicks to send the Mountain Hawks (15-1-3) into the sweet sixteen for the first time in school history.
“We only try to take one game at a time, one half at a time,” said Gazda. “I think we have built up some momentum from what we have done this year.”
The Rhode Island offense put the pressure on the Lehigh defense midway through the first half and was able to break through in the 18th minute when Lukasz Tumicz lofted a shot that bobbled its way into the goal. It was the first time all season the Mountain Hawks had given up a first half goal and trailed a game on the Goodman Campus all season.
With 6:34 remaining in the game, freshman Kyle Evans slipped Gazda the ball at the top of the box. Gazda proceeded to move around an out-of-positioned Chris Pennock and scored his fourth goal of the season. For Evans, it was his seventh assist of the season, which ties the record of most assists by a freshman that was set by Doug Cusick in 2000.
Both teams had chances to seal the game in the overtime sessions, but senior Jim Morahan and Pennock came up with major saves to keep their respective teams still in the game.
In the shootout, Lehigh and Rhode Island were both successful on their first three attempts as Evans, sophomore Jim Taranto and Jesse Schram got past Pennock, while Dawid Badecki, Lukasz Tumicz and Geoff Cameron all scored for the Rams. With Adam Gazda scoring on Lehigh’s fourth attempt, Morahan came up with a critical save as he tipped Callum Bissett’s shot just wide of the goal. Senior Matt Franz had a chance to put the game away, but his just sailed just wide of the goal. Jeffrey Gonsalves evened the shootout at 4-4 to keep Rhode Island alive. Senior John O’Reilly broke the tie to give the Mountain Hawks a 5-4 lead with Rhode Island’s Steve Mellen coming up for the next shot. Mellen’s shot went directly to Morahan to give Lehigh the shootout victory.
“We’re approaching Thanksgiving and we still get to play soccer,” said Morahan. “That’s what we love to do.”
Morahan came up with two stops on the night as Pennock recorded six saves. Lehigh out shot Rhode Island 24-9 and held a 7-4 advantage in corner kicks.
Rhode Island’s season comes to an end at 12-5-6.
Next up for the Mountain Hawks will be the No.1 Duke Blue Devils, who defeated Brown 2-0 in Durham, N.C. on Wednesday night. Duke will host Lehigh on Sunday at 1:00 pm at Koskinen Stadium.