PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – After 110 minutes of action on Tuesday, the Lehigh men’s soccer team played to a 0-0 2OT draw against La Salle. The Mountain Hawks had 15 shots, seven of which were on goal but could not find the game winner. The Lehigh defense produced its third-straight shutout and fifth in seven matches as the team entered Tuesday ranked No. 5 in the nation in goals against average.
"We are keeping games tight defensively with our back four, Ciaran and Danny," said head coach Dean Koski. "They continue to do a really good job managing the game so I was pleased with the defensive effort. You play 110 minutes of shutout soccer, I’m not disappointed. We got some good looks and that’s important."
In the first half, Lehigh only had four shots as it’s best chance came late in the half. After La Salle turned it over deep on its own side, sophomore Ben Wysocki was fouled right outside the 18-yard box. Senior Kevin Strunk took the free kick and sent the ball spinning heading to the inside post but the Saint Pater’s keeper just got a hand on it to knock it away.
The Mountain Hawks did a much better job creating chances in the second half and overtimes, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. Lehigh had six shots in the second half while out-shooting La Salle 5-2 in the overtimes including 4-1 in the first overtime.
"We didn’t put two halves together," said Koski. "We played much better in the second half and overtimes. We were more consistent and played with more energy. It took us a little bit to get used to the field turf and pace of the game."
Lehigh had five different players with at least two shots while seniors Joe Puleo, Neal Melchionni and Strunk each had two shots on goal.
Defensively, sophomore Ciaran Nugent had three saves en route to his fifth shutout of the season. Nugent continues his hot play in goal as he entered the game ranked No. 3 in the nation with a .993 saves percentage.
The match was Lehigh’s last before beginning its Patriot League slate on Saturday at Bucknell at 4 p.m. While Koski would have liked to get a result in the match against La Salle, he knows the benefits of playing a tough out of conference schedule.
"Every game whether you win, lose or draw heading into Patriot League play is important because we will learn something whether it’s from things we do well or don’t do well," said Koski. "We’ve had a good run of non-league games leading into Bucknell. Now we have to settle in and play our best soccer from here on in."