EASTON, Pa. – Lehigh outshot Lafayette 19-4 but couldn’t find the back of the net falling 1-0 to the rival Leopards Saturday night. The Mountain Hawks had a season-high 14 shots on goal, five coming off the foot of senior Joe Puelo. They also had 11 corner kicks to Lafayette’s three, but Lehigh couldn’t take advantage of its scoring opportunities.
“The effort by our guys was great tonight,” said head coach Dean Koski. “They played the way we wanted them to play and we created plenty of chances. We had a lot of looks at goal, but we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Lehigh falls to 4-2-4 on the season and 1-1-1 in conference play while Lafayette improves to 6-2-3 and 2-0-1 in the Patriot League. The two teams first met in the Mountain Hawks’ inaugural season in 1913. Saturday night’s match was the 108th meeting between Lehigh-Lafayette as Lehigh holds the edge 53-45-10.
In what was predicted to be a defensive battle, Lehigh almost found itself with an early lead in the game’s first few minutes. Senior Steven Avena found himself in close and peppered a shot at keeper Graham Heydt who made the save and after a rebound and a loose ball, Puleo was there for another shot right at Heydt who knocked it away.
There was no telling how that could have changed the complexion of the game as six minutes later, Lafayette found the back of the net from a Kyle Scharfenberg header off a corner kick from Sean Peckham.
“It was a man-to-man marking situation and he got away from us,” said Koski. “We knew he was their target off of dead balls and we just left him free, just a bad job by us there.”
While Lafayette would end the game with just four shots and two on goal, Lehigh still had plenty of chances to find the equalizer. The Mountain Hawks finished the first half with ten shots, eight on goal as all four of Puleo’s shots and all three of Avena’s shots were on goal.
In the second half, the action continued to pick up in Lehigh’s attacking third. Despite being down a goal, the Mountain Hawks had all of the momentum as Lafayette mustered just one shot in the second half. In the 55th minute, sophomore Brian Suchoski made a great run with the ball and drilled a shot that went wide of the net. Three minutes later, Lehigh had consecutive corner kicks but couldn’t muster anything. Six of the Mountain Hawks’ nine second-half shots were on goal, but just couldn’t find the back of the net.
“I’m not concerned about our effort, but I am frustrated in our attacking players,” said Koski. “They have not done the kind of job that they are capable of doing and certainly, our forwards need to take a good hard look at what they are doing and not doing.”
The Mountain Hawks will look to put the tough loss behind them when they take the pitch Tuesday night in a non-conference match against Penn at the Ulrich Sports Complex at 7 p.m.
“We just have to move on, there is a lot of conference play left,” said Koski. "I think we have had arguably our toughest three opening matches in the league. It’s not a great start, but we're okay. We just have to keep looking forward.”