PRINCETON, N.J. – On a frigid night in New Jersey, the Lehigh men’s soccer team was unable to get anything going as it fell to Princeton 2-0 Tuesday night. The Tigers got the game-winning goal early in the second half and found an insurance goal shortly after. The Mountain Hawks mustered eight shots on the match from seven different players, but Lehigh was unable to find the back of the net.
“I think we had some guys who did a nice job,” said head coach Dean Koski. “Our focus is Saturday so this was a good tune up game for some of us. I was disappointed though in our lack of execution. We have to do a better job of getting into dangerous positions.”
In a quiet first half, Princeton controlled most of the possession but neither team had a shot on goal. The Tigers had six shots while the Mountain Hawks had four coming from four different players. Right before halftime, Patrick O’Neil fired a shot in the 43rd minute from eight yards out that he tried to sneak inside the post but Ciaran Nugent was there, diving to his right for the first save of the match and one of three on the night to keep the game scoreless.
Then in the 58th minute, Princeton found the back of the net. After a corner kick, the ball fell to the feet of Matt Sanner who scored from in close for the game-winning goal and his seventh goal of the season with assists coming from Mark Linnville and Joe Saitta. Shortly after – in the 63rd minute- the Tigers added a second gal as Cameron Porter scored his fifth goal of the season, assisted by Saitta.
“We did poorly on restarts” said Koski. “We lost our mark and we can’t do that. We weren’t tight when we need to be. A Patriot League game could boil down to a restart.”
Matt Weaver had the best chance in the second half when in the 83rd minute he had an opening in the box but his shot was blocked by a Princeton defender. Neal Melchionni was the lone Mountain Hawk with more than one shot as he finished the match with two.
Lehigh's backup keeper junior Taylor Sulmonetti picked up his first career save as he entered the match late in the second half.
Tuesday night’s matchup was the 41st all-time meeting between Princeton and Lehigh as the Tigers improve to 31-8-1. The teams first met in 1922 when Princeton defeated Lehigh 1-0.
The Mountain Hawks entered the match nationally ranked No. 3 in goals against average (0.37), No. 3 in save percentage (0.909) and No. 4 in shutout percentange (.60). Nugent ranked No. 3 in goals against average (.366) and No. 3 in save percentage (.906).
Lehigh will return to the pitch for its final regular season home match on Saturday at 7 p.m. against Army at the Ulrich Sports Complex. It will be senior night and a crucial game as Lehigh looks to lock up a Patriot League Tournament berth. The Mountain Hawks control their own destiny – they win and they are in.
“Army is a very good and improved team,” said Koski. “It will be our toughest match of the season.”