WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lehigh women’s soccer team evened the score midway through the first half, but was unable to net the game-winner as the Mountain Hawks (8-3-4, 3-1-2 Patriot League) salvaged an important 1-1 tie against a feisty American squad on Sunday afternoon. With the point, the Mountain Hawks clinch their first league tournament berth since 2006 and enter next weekend’s Patriot League finale with a chance at the regular season championship.
“We played well throughout the year and earned this opportunity to compete in the Patriot League Tournament,” said head coach Eric Lambinus. “It’s a really good feeling and something that our girls should be proud of. The goal is to make the tournament and compete for a league championship and we’ve put ourselves in position to do that.”
The tie marks Lehigh’s first-ever positive result at American as it had been 0-6 in program history entering Sunday’s contest. It was also the Mountain Hawks’ seventh overtime game of the season.
The Eagles played a man down for the final 79 minutes after Friederike Engel was sent off with a red card at 31:00 of the first half.
“I thought American played very well,” said Lambinus. “They played with a lot of heart, a lot of emotion. It was tough to compete with them because they brought so much to the table. Even playing a man down for so long, they played with so much fight.”
The tie extends Lehigh’s Patriot League unbeaten streak to five straight games. It hasn’t lost a league game since the opener at Army on Oct. 1.
The Mountain Hawks can still win the regular season championship and host the Patriot League Tournament for the first time since 2005 should they beat Lafayette next Saturday, while both Army and Bucknell lose or tie.
American came out with a vengeance, taking a 1-0 lead at 21:27. Kendra Jones took a feed down the left flank, came in on an odd man rush, and beat senior goalkeeper Lauren Mains with a shot inside the far post for her third goal of the season.
The Mountain Hawks continued to pressure late in the first half and early in the second, but the American defense stood tall. Lehigh finally broke through at 70:12 when senior Lena Cannon came into the box on a one-on-one. She was tripped up, creating a penalty kick opportunity, which senior Liz Carlos converted to even the score at one.
The Mountain Hawks nearly took their first lead less than 10 minutes later when sophomore Mary Grace Doyle’s shot from the top of the box looked ticketed for the far corner, but American goalkeeper Lindsey Farthing made a sensational sprawling save to her left.
Less than a minute later, freshman Paige Dyrek also had a point-blank opportunity, but it went just wide.
Both squads had chances in the overtime periods, including in the 108th minute when junior Jana Basubas fed Dyrek in the box, but Farthing came out to make the stop before getting a shot off.
Lehigh led the final shot count, 14-9 while it had four corner kicks to two for the Eagles. American committed 14 fouls to 13 for the Mountain Hawks while Mains finished with four saves across Farthing’s five.
Lehigh travels to Pennsylvania on Wednesday to face the Quakers before heading to Lafayette for the regular season finale against the Leopards. The league tournament begins the following weekend with the semifinals set for Nov. 5 and championship game on the seventh.
“It’s good that we can travel to two tough opponents - two teams playing for their playoff lives - and come down here and compete and fight with them,” said Lambinus. “It’s a tough task to play two games on the road, especially two overtime games. I thought we did a good job.
“I think moving forward as a team, we just need to do a better job at finishing our opportunities,” he continued. “We’re creating great chances and not just settling for long shots, but we need to do a better job of finishing our opportunities when we get them.”