WEST POINT, N.Y. – Freshman Ben Wysocki’s first-career goal broke a scoreless deadlock to give the Lehigh men’s soccer team a thrilling 1-0 win over Army on Sunday. With the victory, the Mountain Hawks (8-6-2, 4-1-1 PL) clinch a berth into the Patriot League Tournament. The win also keeps Lehigh’s hopes alive to earn the regular season championship and host the league tournament for the first time since 2006.
“It was a physical battle from the first whistle through the goal,” said head coach Dean Koski. “Army plays a very up tempo, high pressure style and they’re very disruptive. For us, that was challenging because we never held the ball for a stretch of time the way we wanted to. We had to manage the game to at least create opportunities for ourselves.”
After more than 105 minutes without a goal, junior Joe Puleo served a cross to the far post where Wysocki played it off his left foot and past Army goalkeeper Ryan Curren for the golden goal at 106:38.
The win, coupled with Colgate’s tie at Navy on Saturday, means the Mountain Hawks remain alive for the regular season championship and the right to host the Patriot League Tournament. They need to beat Bucknell next Saturday and have Colgate lose or tie against American to earn the top spot.
“Our first goal is always to make the Patriot League playoffs,” said Koski. “You can’t compete for a championship without qualifying for the playoffs. It’s one of the tougher conferences to qualify with all the parity in the league, game in and game out.
“It’s an achievement for us; it checks off one of our goals,” he continued. “While I’m very pleased and proud of our team, we have an important game next Saturday [against Bucknell] to finish the regular season.”
A back-and-forth game opened up in the second half. After Lehigh held a slim 6-5 shot advantage in the first stanza, the teams combined for 22 shots in the second, 12 coming from the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh had the only shot of the first overtime while the first (and only shot) of the second extra session ended the game.
“Both teams had some fairly good opportunities,” said Koski. “Most of their chances came off their set pieces. We had a ton of throw-ins and certainly had some really good looks at the goal where we could have put the game away. Army held strong and defended well.”
Both goalkeepers stood tall with Lehigh senior Jonathan Nydell making four saves for his seventh shutout of the season. Currens made six stops while allowing the one goal. The goalkeepers also got help from their defense; both squads made a team save as well, Lehigh in the first half and Army in the second.
Final shots were 20-15 in favor of Lehigh while the Mountain Hawks had 10 corners to eight for the Black Knights. A physical game saw 19 fouls called on Army and 14 on Lehigh.
The Mountain Hawks return home next Saturday to host Bucknell at 7 p.m. It will be Senior Day with Nydell, James Graf and Matt Thaeder honored prior to the game.