BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After a stellar trip to the west coast, the Lehigh men’s soccer team kept its momentum going Saturday night as it defeated Saint. Peter’s at the Ulrich Sports Complex 2-0. The Mountain Hawks had its highest scoring output of the season as senior co-captain Neal Melchionni had the game-winning goal in the 68th minute on an assist from sophomore Ben Wysocki while senior Joe Puleo added an insurance goal in the 88th minute to secure the victory.
"I think we were better in the attacking third than other games," said head coach Dean Koski. "We will take the win but I want us when we have those opportunities to score goals, we have to score. The result is most important but I don’t want us to take for granted scoring opportunities. I love the fact that we created so many chances now we just have to finish more of them."
Lehigh took a season-high 23 shots for the game with a season-high 13 of those going on goal. After a quiet first half with eight shots, the Mountain Hawks had ample chances to put the game out of reach in the second half. In the 57th minute, Puleo was rewarded a penalty shot but couldn’t convert as the keeper guessed correctly. Then less than a minute later, Strunk had a free kick that was lined but right at the keeper. And then in the 61st minute, it was Puleo again who fired a shot from the 18-yard box but right at Saint Peter’s keeper Diego Mendoza who had 11 saves on the night.
The Mountain Hawks had 15 shots in the second half and finally broke through when Wysocki laid a ball off for Melchionni in the box who blasted it with his left foot low enough to get past the goalie to put Lehigh up for good.
Lehigh was trying to give itself some breathing room as Saint Peter’s kept fighting hard looking for the equalizer. The Peacocks let their frustration get the best of them however as they picked up four yellow cards and one red card in the second half. The red card came in the 83rd minute and allowed the Mountain Hawks to be even more aggressive looking for the insurance goal.
They found it in the 88th minute when sophomore James Meyerkord sent a through ball to Puleo who scored his second goal of the season when his shot went through the keeper’s legs.
"I feel badly for the keeper but anytime you put the ball on frame anything can happen," said Koski. "That’s a good lesson for our guys. If you put it on frame, anything can happen."
Sophomore keeper Ciaran Nugent kept the lead intact with five saves for his fourth shutout of the season.
The Mountain Hawks will take the pitch again on Tuesday, September 20th at La Salle at 7 p.m. It will be the team’s final game before beginning Patriot League play. While Koski is happy with the job his guys are doing, he knows they still have some things to work on.
"We just have to keep sharpening up the areas that we struggle with sometimes," he said. "We have to work on our first touch and connecting passes but we are making progress in the right direction. Our guys are doing a great job."