BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s soccer team earned their 500th win in program history in dramatic fashion, erasing a two-goal deficit in the second half to defeat Princeton, 3-2, at the Ulrich Sports Complex on Tuesday night. Senior captain James Graf and juniors Neal Melchionni and Joe Puleo tallied goals for Lehigh, which improved to 2-1 on the season with the win.
"Being down two to nothing is challenging against a program like Princeton," Lehigh head coach Dean Koski said. "We had a really tough first half, but we didn’t give up."
Princeton (1-1) fired five shots on goal in the first half and went ahead when Manny Sardinha took an Antoine Hoppenot feed and stashed it behind Lehigh keeper Jonathan Nydell. The Tigers then added a second goal seven minutes into the second half when Brandon Busch converted a penalty kick.
Down but not out, Lehigh responded with a goal of its own just 1:15 later. Junior Kevin Strunk flicked a long throw toward the net, where Graf was able to get a head on the ball and direct it by Princeton keeper Sean Lynch.
"Once we got Graf’s goal, the momentum really changed," Koski explained. "We started to bring more enthusiasm and emotion."
The momentum continued in the Mountain Hawks’ favor as Melchionni evened the score at 2-2 in the 61st minute. After a corner from freshman Ben Wysocki, the ball bounced to Melchionni, who blasted it past Lynch for his first goal of the season.
Puleo then completed the rally with his third goal of the year and his second game-winner. Off another throw in, sophomore Cameron Omsberg found Puleo open at the far post for the redirection to give Lehigh its first lead of the game in the 67th minute.
All three of the Mountain Hawks’ goals came in a span of 12:10 as Lehigh earned its first home win over Princeton since 1998.
"Tonight, we started off really slow," Melchionni said after the match. "We knew we had to pick it up a lot. We have to come out with high energy, we can't wait for teams to score goals on us."
The Mountain Hawks will try to build off the victory on Friday when they wrap up their season-opening four-game homestand against La Salle at 7 p.m. Live stats and video will be available at Lehighsports.com.