BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Although the Mountain Hawks consistently pressured the Lafayette defense, a late goal off a free kick for the Leopards was enough for the 1-0 win in the 109th edition of the Lehigh vs. Lafayette men’s soccer rivalry. The Lehigh defense was strong, keeping the Leopards at bay for the majority of the game as junior goalkeeper Ciaran Nugent finished with four saves on the night, while the rest of the defense limited the Lafayette opportunities.
"Our guys executed game plan and it came down to one moment, as we knew it would, but it was a tough ball for Ciaran to deal with in a crowd like that as he has to anticipate a deflection," said head coach Dean Koski.
The game began with the two teams trading attacks, but the Mountain Hawks were able to generate solid scoring opportunities throughout the first half. In the 11th minute, junior Ben Wysocki blasted a rocket from about 30 yards out, but the shot sailed wide to the right of the net. Lehigh continued its offensive attack as sophomore Rylan Collins was looking for freshman Jamie Luchini with a touch pass from the top right side of the box. The ball rolled into an empty space, but Luchini was unable to reach it as the crowd let out a collective gasp because the anticipated blast was unable to be unleashed. Nugent was able to stop two Lafayette shots throughout the first half, while junior James Meyerkord led the offense with two shots, one on-goal.
Lehigh continued to pressure the Lafayette defense in the second half, firing seven shots in the second period and creating opportunities on two corner kicks. The Mountain Hawk defense was also extremely strong over the course of the entire game.
In the 59th minute, the Leopards were able to break away, as Blake Fink found himself one-on-one with Nugent. The junior keeper came out of the net to try and cut down the attack and as Fink ripped a shot, Nugent made a sliding save to deflect the ball and then leaped on top of the rock to end the attack.
The Mountain Hawks offense then was able to continually play the ball on the Leopards’ half of the field, testing McDonald four times over the course of the game, while firing 12 shots towards the Lafayette net. Meyerkord finished the game with four shots as the leading member of the Lehigh attack.
"We had some looks at goal, and when you have some looks you hope to get at least one of those in," said Koski.
The Leopards broke the scoreless draw in the 66th minute when, off a free kick, Nate Arronson blasted a shot from the top right of the Lehigh box from about 30 yards out that found the back of the net to give Lafayette a 1-0 lead.
Lehigh was resilient, as the offense pushed towards the Leopards goal and found themselves with multiple opportunities in front of the Lafayette net towards the end of the game. In the 75th minute, the Mountain Hawks were able to create three scoring opportunities off of throw-ins deep in Lafayette territory, capped off by a header from Luchini, but the shot went wide of the net.
The Leopards were able to withstand some last minute pressure by the Mountain Hawks, as they improved to 2-1 in Patriot League play. The Mountain Hawks fell to 0-3 in league contests, but remain optimistic as there are still games left on their schedule.
"We’re not going to change a lot, as Patriot League games are about defending well and waiting for that one chance," said Koski.
Men’s soccer alumni were honored tonight as they were introduced at halftime in celebration of the rich tradition that 100 years of men’s soccer has brought to Lehigh University.
The Mountain Hawks will now travel to Georgetown on Tuesday, Oct. 9 for a non-league afternoon match with the Hoyas, slated to begin at 3 p.m.