BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After pushing the number one team in the nation to the brink of overtime, the Lehigh men’s soccer team will set its sights on a crucial three points this Saturday when the Eagles of American will be welcomed into Ulrich Sports Complex for a critical Patriot League tilt that carries a wealth of playoff implications. The Mountain Hawks will also be celebrating the careers of three departing seniors as they will be honored at halftime on Senior Night.
Currently, Lehigh holds the fourth and final playoff spot in the latest Patriot League standings. The Mountain Hawks are just one point ahead of Navy, Bucknell and Holy Cross, as Lehigh controls its own destiny for the final two games. The Eagles hold a 10-4-4 all-time advantage in the series and have come out on top in the past two meetings, including a Patriot League Tournament defeat two years ago. Lehigh will be looking to turn the tables on American, as the Mountain Hawks have had a resurgence of late, winning three of their last four matches, the only loss coming to the top-ranked Maryland Terrapins on Tuesday night, 2-1.
In that last match, Maryland took an early 1-0 lead, but junior James Meyerkord found himself with the ball and weaved through the midfield, firing a blast inside the right post to level the score at one apiece. Lehigh showcased its stellar defense, as junior Ciaran Nugent and senior Taylor Sulmonetti split time between the posts, combining for six saves on the night. With less than three minutes remaining and the thought of overtime in the air, Maryland began its attack and after a sequence of shots off a corner kick, capitalized to grab a 2-1 lead late in the second half. Though the Mountain Hawks were defeated, the confidence gained from pushing the best team in the nation to the brink of an extra session could carry over into tomorrow night’s tilt with American.
Meyerkord now leads the team with five points via two goals and an assist on the season. He is followed by sophomore Brian Suchoski who has scored twice against Saint Peter’s for his four points. Four other Mountain Hawks have found the back of the net this season, three of which were game-winners as sophomore Rylan Collins, senior Matt Weaver and junior Kyle Lucas have all beaten teams with their late goals. On defense, Nugent leads the Lehigh net protection with 53 saves on the year, posting a .736 save percentage over his 1,128 minutes of action. Senior Taylor Sulmonetti has made 17 saves on the season, including four in his stellar performance against the Terps on Tuesday night, for an .895 save percentage.
American will enter tomorrow night’s match as the leaders of the Patriot League with a 3-0-2 record in league play. The Eagles will come in as winners of their last two matches, including a 3-2 overtime thriller against Navy last Saturday for their third Patriot League victory. The Mountain Hawks will be American’s final road test of the season, as the Eagles will conclude their 2012 regular season campaign at home with a non-league match against Princeton before their Patriot League finale against Holy Cross.
Entering the 83rd minute trailing 2-1 to the Mids, senior Alassane Kane found the back of the net on a header off a corner from junior Colin Seigfreid, his first of two Seigfreid to Kane connections of the match, to knot the score at two apiece. The Eagles needed just 1:39 into the extra session to win the game when Kane scored for the second time off another assist from Seigfreid to keep American’s undefeated Patriot League record alive.
American is led by Kane and Seigfreid on offense, as Kane’s six goals lead the team, but Seigfreid has collected a team-best 16 points. Also in the mix at the top of the scoring chart is junior Dale McDonald with 12 points via five goals and two assists. Six other Eagles have found the back of the net this season, three of which have scored multiple times. On defense, junior Billy Knutsen has started 15 games and accumulated 1,383 minutes between the posts. Over those 15 starts, Knutsen has made 68 saves, posting a 1.04 goals against average and an .810 save percentage.
Saturday’s match will also include the celebration of the careers of seniors Taylor Sulmonetti, Matt Weaver and captain Cam Omsberg, as each are concluding their final season in the brown and white. Festivities aside, Lehigh will be in search of the crucial three points that would come with a victory in order to stay ahead of Navy, Bucknell and Holy Cross for the fourth and final playoff position.
After Saturday’s match, Lehigh will travel to West Point, N.Y. to conclude the 2012 regular season with a contest against the Black Knights of Army. The Black Knights currently trail in the Patriot League standings but are separated by just two points from Lehigh and five points from second place Colgate. The Mountain Hawks’ tilt with Army is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. on November 3.