Nugent, Mountain Hawks silence NJIT
NEWARK, N.J. – Junior Steven Avena’s goal in the 38th minute propelled Lehigh to a 1-0 win over NJIT on Tuesday night at Lubetkin Field. Freshman Ciaran Nugent earned a shutout in his first career start in goal with five saves as the Mountain Hawks improved to 6-5-2 on the season. Lehigh has now held its opponent scoreless in four of the last five matches.
“I think Ciaran did a good job tonight for his first Division-I match,” Lehigh head coach Dean Koski said. “NJIT is a very good team. There were moments where he was tested in what was a very physical game and he did a very good job.”
For the first time in the last seven matches, Lehigh scored in the first half courtesy of a brilliant individual effort by Avena. The junior took the ball on the right wing 40 yards from goal and cut through the NJIT defense, before slotting the ball along the ground and inside the far post.
“It was a real class goal,” Koski said of Avena’s effort. “A great individual play.”
The goal-- Avena’s first since September 15, 2009 vs. Delaware-- proved to be enough as Lehigh extended its shutout streak to 194 consecutive minutes. The Mountain Hawks now own seven shutouts in 13 matches this season.
Lehigh outshot NJIT (3-9-0) in both halves, but it was the Highlanders who produced more efforts on goal (5-2). John Ricketti stopped one shot in net for the hosts and got some help in the opening half when sophomore Austin Decker’s shot glanced off the post. Junior Neal Melchionni, fresh off a two-goal effort vs. Holy Cross on Saturday, led the Brown and White with three shot attempts on the evening.
“We have guys who are capable of scoring some goals,” Koski admitted. “The fact that we’re spreading out the scoring is a byproduct of how we’re playing. We have some guys that can really take the pressure off our forwards.”
Lehigh returns to league action on Saturday when American visits the Ulrich Sports Complex at 7 p.m. The Mountain Hawks are currently tied for third (2-1-1, seven points) in the standings with three league matches remaining. Colgate leads the table with 12 points, while American is second with 10. Fans that can't make it on Saturday can watch the match live and follow the statistics on Lehighsports.com.