BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Mountain Hawks dropped their 2012 season opener by a score of 2-0, to the Hofstra Pride. The loss is Lehigh’s first home defeat since Nov. 6, 2010, breaking an eight-game unbeaten streak. Junior goalkeeper Ciaran Nugent was able to stop 6-of-8 shots-on-goal but Lehigh’s offense struggled, testing Hofstra goalkeeper Roberto Pellegrini just one time.
In the first half, Nugent faced five shots from the Pride, stopping four of them. Pride forward Maid Memic was able to connect on a right-side cross from Chris Griebsch in the 40th minute to beat Nugent. Nugent faced a plethora of shots from the Pride, including a header from captain Shaun Foster that hit the cross bar and bounced harmlessly behind the net. The Mountain Hawks were unable to fire a shot upon Pellegrini in the first half, as all three of Lehigh’s attempts were off target.
The intensity picked up in the second half as both teams began to fight for the ball. In the 61st minute, the Hofstra offense was able to get behind Lehigh’s defense and forced the Mountain Hawks to commit a foul in the box that resulted in a Pride penalty kick. Griebsch fired the penalty shot past Nugent in the lower right-hand corner, giving Hofstra a comfortable 2-0 lead.
“When you start chasing the game, you start taking risks and we took a risk and were left numbers down on a counterattack,” said Lehigh head coach Dean Koski. “Hofstra brought a very physical and mature team and I think that we were challenged by that style of play. That’s a good thing for us and we can learn a lot from that.”
Though the Mountain Hawks did not prevail in their home opener, Koski was happy with some of the play from his freshmen.
“They had moments when I was pleased with how they played and they had moments when they looked like freshmen, but even our more experienced players didn’t have their best game,” said Koski.
Lehigh did not fade away even though Hofstra commanded a 2-0 lead. The Mountain Hawks had scoring opportunities in the second half, but were unable to connect on their crosses. Freshman Kyle Chin provided the best scoring chance, but his shot was stopped by Pellegrini as the junior goalkeeper preserved his shutout.
“The second goal did take some of the wind out of our sails, but I appreciate that our guys kept competing even when we were down two goals,” said Koski.
Lehigh will now await a trip to New York where it will take on the Stony Brook Sea Wolves on Aug. 31. Koski believes the break from game action will be a useful teaching tool for his team and thinks the rest will help the Mountain Hawks regroup for their next game.
‘It will be very helpful (of the six days off),” said Koski. “We’re looking forward to getting into a normal schedule.”
With the loss, Lehigh broke a string of four straight years without losing a home opener (3-0-1). The Mountain Hawks will return home on Wednesday, Sept. 12 when they host La Salle at 7 p.m.