BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Despite conceding an early goal, the Lehigh men’s soccer team battled back to defeat American on Saturday night, 2-1, at the Ulrich Sports Complex. Sophomore Austin Decker tied the game in the 56th minute and senior captain James Graf headed home the winner 19 minutes later to help Lehigh (7-5-2, 3-1-1 Patriot League) earn three big points in the league standings.
"It was not a stellar first half or first minute for us tonight," Lehigh head coach Dean Koski said. "But our guys regrouped and found two goals. Decker did a great job turning around and getting his shot on the frame and Graf’s was really a classic goal."
The Eagles (6-7-1, 3-1-1 Patriot League) jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 58 seconds into the match as Jamie Davin pounced on a loose ball in the Lehigh box and fired it past senior Jonathan Nydell for an unassisted goal.
Lehigh’s best opportunity in the first half came from Decker, who curled a shot just over the crossbar in the 10th minute from outside the box. The Mountain Hawks attempted four shots in the opening frame, but could not manage a shot on goal as the score remained 1-0 heading into the half.
The Mountain Hawks surged out of the gates and found the equalizer 10 minutes into the second stanza. Taking a pass in the American box from freshman James Meyerkord, Decker skillfully turned with the ball and slotted it inside the left post for his third goal of the season.
The momentum continued to stew in Lehigh’s favor and eventually came to a boil when Graf produced a stunning finish to a perfect build up in the attacking end. Freshman Ben Wysocki initiated the play with a ball to junior Neal Melchionni on the left wing. Melchionni then played a great cross into the area, which Graf was able to meet in the air and head past American keeper Matt Makowski.
"James stepped into the attacking midfield role tonight after sitting out the last two weeks," Koski added. "He really showed why he’s the captain and why he’s so important to his team."
With the victory, the Mountain Hawks jump into second place in the Patriot League standings with 10 points and two league matches remaining on the schedule. Lehigh sits one game and three points back of first-place Colgate and is now level on points with the Eagles in second.
Nydell made one save on the night, but it proved to be a huge one as he palmed away a blast by Nick Kapus in the waning stages of the match to prevent a second American goal.
"This is a very good American team," Koski admitted. "If we had given up a second goal after allowing the first, it could have been over. We were able to hold them to one and that allowed us to regroup. I’m very proud of the team’s effort tonight."
Lehigh will travel to Yale for its final non-league matchup of the season on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Mountain Hawks will then resume league play on Sunday, October 31 at Army at 1 p.m.