WASHINGTON – Lehigh and Colgate battled to a scoreless draw after 110 minutes in their Patriot League semifinal, Friday afternoon at Reeves Field. The match went to penalty kicks where the Raiders prevailed 5-4 to advance to Sunday’s Patriot League Championship match. Lehigh received another strong effort from its defense, which ranks in the top six nationally in goals-against average, save percentage and shutout percentage. Sophomore Ciaran Nugent made five saves to record his 11th shutout of the season, as Lehigh’s season comes to an end at 8-4-6.
“I thought we played a good game,” said Lehigh head coach Dean Koski. “We defended well. We executed our game plan the way we wanted to do it. To be 0-0 after 110 minutes was a fair result considering the ebbs and flows of momentum and how both teams played.”
Colgate (10-4-6), the No. 2 seed, rode an 11-3 second half shot advantage to out-shoot the third seeded Mountain Hawks 17-10 on the cool, breezy afternoon.
Each team registered four shots in the first half, with senior Joe Puleo putting Lehigh’s lone shot on goal of the period and Nugent making a diving save on Shane Conlin. The Raiders put forth their best pressure in the second half with 11 shots, but only four on goal. Conlin once again had the best chance for Colgate, as he banged a shot off the crossbar, while Nugent made four saves in the period.
“Ciaran was named the Goalkeeper of the Year in the Patriot League for a reason,” Koski explained. “He did what he needed to do and came up with saves when we needed them. It was not surprising. What hurt us is that we didn’t do enough to win in the attacking third of the field.”
Lehigh had its best offensive charge in the first overtime period as the Mountain Hawks had the only three shots, but Colgate’s Grant Reed came up with a pair of saves on sophomore Ben Borin and freshman Michael Gonzalez. Lehigh did put a loose ball into the back of the net in the period, but officials ruled the ball had gone out of bounds for a corner kick, before it was controlled by the Mountain Hawks.
For the game Lehigh held a 2-1 edge in corner kicks, and was whistled for nine fouls to Colgate’s eight. Reed made four saves for the Raiders.
After a scoreless second overtime period, the game went into penalty kicks. Colgate replaced Reed with Chris Miller for the penalty shootout. Junior Cameron Omsberg led off for Lehigh and converted, while Mike Reidy matched for the Raiders. On Lehigh’s second attempt, senior Neal Melchionni’s shot towards the lower left corner was turned aside by a diving Miller.
Brett Metzger then scored to give Colgate a 2-1 lead. From there, Lehigh converted its final three chances, including Gonzalez, who got a reprieve after the assistant referee ruled that Miller moved off his line early on his attempt. The bad news for the Mountain Hawks was that the Raiders scored on their final three attempts as well, going 5-for-5 in the shootout. Steven Miller booted home the winning kick to set up a championship matchup with host American, who needed a penalty shootout to eliminate Navy following a 0-0 tie.
Despite the bitter end to the season, Koski was pleased with the strides his side made in 2011.
“I’m extremely proud of the way we played today and all season long,” he said. “We had to overcome some obstacles, and a lot of the credit largely goes to our seniors. We have eight of them and they led this team the way we you’d want them to, and carried the team through adversity. I’m disappointed they won’t have a chance to play for a championship on Sunday, but they’ve left this program in good hands.”