BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s soccer team clinched its third straight Patriot League Tournament berth after it defeated Army 3-0 on Saturday night. The Mountain Hawks will be the No. 3 seed and take on No. 2 seed Colgate on Friday, November 11th at 2 p.m. in Washington, D.C. Lehigh got all three goals from seniors as the eight players of the class of 2012 were honored at halftime of the match.
"There is nothing better than getting a good result on senior day and a needed result," said head coach Dean Koski. "Our seniors stepped up the way you want your seniors to play. I couldn’t be prouder of them and the whole team."
It was senior Neal Melchionni who provided the game-winning goal on a penalty kick in the 37th minute after senior Kevin Strunk was taken down in the box. Melchionni fired the PK low and hard and found the back of the net for his fourth goal of the season and second game-winner.
With Lehigh clinging to a 1-0 lead, needing a win or tie to clinch the Tournament berth, it was senior Joe Puleo who tacked on the insurance goal in the in 61st minute. Off a throw in, Cameron Omsberg headed the ball to Puleo who made a couple dribbles in the box, created some space and scored on a brilliant finish for his fourth goal of the year.
Then it was senior Ayo Olasupo who capped off what was already a special evening as Olasupo scored his first-career goal in the 79th minute with assists coming from Puleo and Ben Wysocki. Olasupo entered the match with three career assists, but in his final match at the Ulrich Sports Complex, he was able to find the back of the net for the first time.
"I think it’s great for Ayo," said Koski. "I think every guy on the team is genuinely happy for him and it’s a great goal for him on Senior Day."
Lehigh controlled most of the action, outshooting Army 16-10 while Lehigh keeper sophomore Ciaran Nugent had three saves on the night as he and the nationally-ranked Mountain Hawks defense produced their 10th shutout of the season.
Lehigh entered the week ranked No. 3 in goals against average (0.37), No. 3 in saves percentage (0.909) and No. 4 in shutout percentage (0.60).
Josh Koeppe led the way for Army with three shots, two of which were on goal.
Melchionni, Puleo and Olasupo were honored at the half alongside Kevin Strunk, Steven Avena, Jordie Ciuffetelli, Daniel Odenwelder and Christopher Rabey as the group of eight seniors will be playing in their third Patriot League Tournament in four years.
"They continue to mean a great deal to this program," said Koski. "Their job isn’t done yet though and they know that. While it’s great to get into the Tournament, now we have to refocus and go get it done."
The previous two years in the Patriot League Tournament, Lehigh has fallen in the semifinals both times to American. While the Mountain Hawks could potentially see American in the Championship Match, Lehigh first has to get past a tough Colgate team. The Mountain Hawks and Raiders played to a 0-0 draw earlier this season. Colgate has not lost since its Patriot League opener when it fell to American on September 24th.
"Colgate is certainly a very strong team and dangerous team," said Koski. "We have to bring our best against them and I am anxious to start preparing."
In the other semifinal, No. 1 American will take on No. 4 Navy at 11 a.m. The Championship Match will be Sunday, November 13th at 1 p.m.