SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - The Lehigh women’s soccer team fought back from an early 1-0 deficit with a quick goal of its own, then freshman goalkeeper Ashley Blanks helped keep it that way as the Mountain Hawks (0-0-1) and Seton Hall Pirates played to a 1-1 draw on Monday evening. Junior Isabelle Li scored Lehigh’s goal, just 2:03 after Seton Hall broke the ice. The game was played on a clear night in New Jersey, just one day after the originally scheduled game was postponed due to Hurricane Irene.
“I thought we competed well,” said Lehigh head coach Eric Lambinus. “You could tell at the beginning that it was our first game. We were a bit out of sorts at first, but we played ourselves into the game and ended both halves really well. We’re still learning about ourselves; it was definitely a good game against a good, quality opponent who put us under pressure.”
This marks the second straight season Lehigh tied a Big East squad in its opener (last year, the Mountain Hawks played Syracuse to a 1-1 draw). In doing so, Lehigh handed Seton Hall its first blemish of the season as the Pirates entered Monday with a perfect 2-0 record.
Making her first-career start in her first collegiate game, Blanks came up big when it mattered most, making eight saves, six coming after halftime. That included four in the second half and one in each overtime period to help Lehigh prevail with the draw.
“Ashley was solid; she had to make a bunch of good saves,” said Lambinus. “She played her position and did everything she was supposed to. I was happy that she reacted well [after the first goal] and had a very strong performance.
“Her hands were really solid and she didn’t bobble anything,” Lambinus continued. “She was put under pressure. It looked like she had played a bunch of college games before; the game wasn’t above her.”
Seton Hall capitalized on a sequence of opportunities in the 18th minute to put Lehigh in a 1-0 hole. Katlyn Ritter’s initial shot was saved by Blanks, but she converted the follow-up chance at 17:18.
It took just over two minutes for the Mountain Hawks to answer as Li converted a corner kick to even the score at 19:21. Sophomore Murphee Greeley assisted on the play as her corner was deflected to Li, who put home her second-career goal (and first since 2009) from about five yards out.
“It was great for Izzy to get a goal. It’s great for her confidence,” said Lambinus. “She’s had a good preseason and was rewarded with the goal. It’s much deserved. We hope she can build on this and get even better as the season progresses.”
The teams played scoreless over the final 90:39, but it wasn’t for a lack of chances on both sides. Blanks helped stop a series of Seton Hall opportunities, beginning by stopping a Stephanie Soma shot at 71:21. The Pirates continued to attack, with four additional shots over the next 7:39.
Like they did towards the end of the first, the Mountain Hawks turned it up a notch towards the end of the second as well. They carried that momentum into overtime where they had two quality chances right off the bat, from freshman Darby Wiegand and Greeley, at 90:26 and 91:16, respectively.
“We increased our play throughout the game and got better,” said Lambinus. “We had a lot of quality chances, but unfortunately didn’t put another one in.”
Seton Hall held the final shots (17-9) and shots on goal (9-5) edge. Lehigh had five corners to the Pirates’ four. Blanks finished with eight saves while Seton Hall’s Jennifer Pettigrew made four.
The Mountain Hawks return to the Ulrich Sports Complex for their home opener when they host Binghamton on Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. It marks the first of two-straight home games as Lehigh hosts Monmouth the following Friday (Sept. 9).