BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s soccer team found the back of the net for the first time this season and it held up as the Mountain Hawks defeated Yale 1-0 on Sunday at the Ulrich Sports Complex. It was a pair of seniors that helped give Lehigh its first win of 2011 as Kevin Strunk lobbed a pass to Joe Puleo who made a couple of moves inside the box and connected for the game-winning goal in the 30th minute.
"Our first win of the season at home against a very good Ivy League team; I’m happy to get the result," said head coach Dean Koski. "We spent more time on offense this week and it showed in the opportunities that we created. We just have to put more of them away."
Lehigh managed 10 shots on goal and 16 shots for the game, 11 of which came in the first half. Prior to Puleo’s goal, the Mountain Hawks had a pair of really good opportunities. In the 20th minute, Strunk had a free kick outside of the 18-yard box. He struck it well, but right at Yale keeper Bobby Thalman who made one of his nine saves on the day. Two minutes later, freshman Brian Suchoski crossed a ball through the box, but sophomore Ben Wysocki who had a clean look at putting it away mistimed his slide as the ball rolled through untouched. Suchoski had a pair of chances himself as two of this three shots were right on target.
Mountain Hawks keeper sophomore Ciaran Nugent had five saves en route to his third-career shutout and second of the season. Nugent was tested throughout the match especially in the second half when Yale turned up its aggression trying to find the equalizer.
Halfway through the second half, the Bulldogs twice had loose balls in Lehigh’s box but were unable to get a foot on it. Then with 12 minutes to go, there was another scramble inside the box for a loose ball but Nugent jumped on it. And then in a flurry of opportunities with time winding down and all of Yale’s players coming up including its keeper, the Bulldogs put a cross into the middle, but was headed out by senior Jordie Ciuffetelli. Then Yale had a pair of corner kicks in the 88th minute and the 90th minute but came up empty both times.
"We struggled at the end," said Koski. "Fatigue probably had a lot to do with that. We went to the bench a lot so kudos to those guys for stepping up. Managing a 1-0 lead against a very good team is tough. Yale did a good job of keeping the game tight."
Lehigh will try to use the momentum from its first win when it travels to the west coast for the first time in program history. As part of the CAL Legacy Classic, the Mountain Hawks will take the pitch against California on Friday, September 9th at 7 p.m. and Sunday, September 11th at Stanford at 6:30 p.m.
With two formidable opponents coming up, the Mountain Hawks won’t be resting on their laurels.
"We aren’t going to say, ‘We got a win, everything is fine,’" said Koski. "We need to learn from the things not only what we did well but what we didn’t do well. We will continue to improve and make progress and that’s important because this team hasn’t arrived yet as the team I want us to be over 90 minutes."