LEWISBURG, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s soccer team was on the verge of its second tie this week until senior Kevin Strunk found the back of the net with a header in the 106th minute to defeat defending Patriot League champion Bucknell 1-0. It was Strunk’s first of the season while senior Jordie Ciuffetelli had the assist. It was the Mountain Hawks’ fourth straight shutout and sixth consecutive match without a loss.
“It’s a good start to league play, anytime you can get points on the road is huge,” said head coach Dean Koski. “I am certainly happy for the guys.”
It was an ebb-and-flow game with the two teams combining for 40 shots and eight of those on goal. It was Bucknell (5-4-0, 0-1-0 PL) who had the majority of the chances in the first half, out-shooting Lehigh (4-1-3, 1-0-0 PL) 11-4 as the Bison held the advantage 25-15 for the game.
While the Mountain Hawks may have been out shot on the stat sheet, the number they are most happy with is the one on the scoreboard. After senior Joe Puleo earned his team a corner kick, Bucknell cleared the ball for a throw in. Ciuffetelli threw it in and then was knocked out by a Bison player. On the second throw in by Ciuffetelli, the ball came back to him as he served in into the far post for the 6-foot-3 Strunk who finished it off with the game-winning goal.
Ciuffetelli not only helped lead Lehigh to a goal, but he stopped a couple as well. He twice saved balls on the goal line to prevent Bucknell goals. The first came in the first half while the second was at a crucial moment in the sudden-death second overtime thus keeping Bucknell off the board and allowing Lehigh to get the victory.
Ciuffetelli and the rest of the defense have now gone four straight games without giving up a goal to improve its goals against average to 0.25 as the Mountain Hawks have given up just two goals in 806 minutes of action. Coming into this week, Lehigh was ranked No. 5 in the nation in goals against average at 0.31. Nugent had four saves on the match to improve his save percentage to .947. The sophomore keeper was ranked No. 3 in the nation at the start of the week with a .939 save percentage.
“Our guys continue to do a good job of managing the game,” said Koski. “It wasn’t our best defensive effort in terms of limiting chances, but the looks we are giving teams are not from in tight. Our defense keeps doing what we need them to do.”
Lehigh will look to keep momentum going on both sides of the ball when it hosts Colgate Saturday, October 1st at 4 p.m. at the Ulrich Sports Complex. The Mountain Hawks will look to avenge a 1-0 loss at Colgate last season.