BETHELHEM, Pa. – Senior Matt Weaver connected on a cross from junior James Meyerkord in the 90th minute to give the Lehigh men’s soccer team a 1-0 victory over Penn State on Tuesday night. The Mountain Hawk defense never wavered as Lehigh withstood constant Nittany Lion pressure to earn their first victory and snap a three-game Penn State winning streak. Lehigh will now set its sights on Colgate for a Saturday night Patriot League match in Hamilton, N.Y.
"After the goal I just wanted to celebrate with my teammates," said senior Matt Weaver. "Everyone brought it in because it means so much to us. We were finally able to get one on the board "
The Mountain Hawks started the game by consistently pressuring Penn State, keeping the ball in Nittany Lion half of the field for a good portion of the first 45 minutes. Lehigh’s best scoring opportunity came when senior Cameron Omsberg was able to get off a header at Penn State keeper Andrew Wolverton, but the sophomore was there to make the save.
The Nittany Lions were able to rip six shots at the Lehigh net throughout the first half but only able to get one shot on senior goalkeeper Taylor Sulmonetti. At the end of the half, the Nittany Lions scrambled to play in a corner kick and a shot was fired from about 30 yards out from the left side. The ball found the back of the net but time had expired and the referees waved off the goal to keep the game at a scoreless draw.
The second half began with Penn State pressuring the Lehigh defense again with a flurry of shots including a rip by sophomore Owen Griffith from about 15 yards out, but the shot went off the crossbar. Senior Hasani Sinclair proceeded to head the rock, off the rebound, at Lehigh’s net but Sulmonetti was there, yet again, to make the stop and keep the game at a draw.
"Our defense was solid tonight," said head coach Dean Koski. "We gave them looks but we didn’t give them too many good looks and that’s important against a team like Penn State."
The Nittany Lions continued to fire shot after shot on the Lehigh net, totaling 13 in the second half with six on the Mountain Hawks goal. Then, with 16:30 remaining in the game, Sulmonetti went down with an injury, forcing junior Ciaran Nugent into action. Nugent, the regular starter, was resting during the non-league match but came off the bench to tend the net for Lehigh.
"Taylor did a great job in there until he got injured and then Ciaran filled in," said Koski. "It was really nice to have him come off the bench but I’m very proud of Taylor’s effort. He made some big saves for us."
In the 87th minute, tempers boiled over between the two teams and a small skirmish broke out to the left of the Penn State net. The result of the scuffle was red cards issued to Lehigh sophomore Brian Suchoski and Penn State senior John Gallagher.
With momentum building towards the end of the game, Lehigh was able to keep the ball on the Penn State side of the pitch, as the more than 400 fans rocked the stands at the Ulrich Sports Complex to motivate the Mountain Hawks.
In the 90th minute, with just 49 seconds to play, the Mountain Hawks struck when Weaver connected off a cross from Meyerkord and ripped the ball into the back left of the Penn State net to give Lehigh a 1-0 lead. The score snapped a four-game scoreless streak by the Penn State defense and was the first goal scored on the Nittany Lions since Georgetown scored two on Sept. 2.
The Mountain Hawks would withstand a scrambling Penn State at the end of the game and walked away with their first victory of 2012.
"They’ve worked hard for this and I’m happy for them," said Koski. "They’ve deserved a better fate for weeks and it just hasn’t been there, but I’m very happy that they got the result that they have worked for."
Now, Lehigh will regroup for three days before traveling to Hamilton, N.Y. on Saturday for showdown with Colgate for its second Patriot League match. Game time is slated for 7 p.m.