WEST POINT, N.Y. – After twice erasing one-goal deficits, the Lehigh men’s soccer team ended its 2012 campaign with a 2-2 draw against the Black Knights. The resilient Mountain Hawks battled back all night as freshman Ben Davis was the first to score on a header in the 48th minute to knot the score at one, and after an Army goal, junior Ben Wysocki found the back of the net for a dramatic equalizer in the 87th minute, but Lehigh could not find the back of the net a third time for the win.
"We did all that we could do to try to get the result we needed," said head coach Dean Koski. "I was really pleased with our effort tonight. We fought back and I thought we created a lot of chances, but I’m extremely disappointed for the seniors that we were unable to extend the season."
The Mountain Hawks pressured early in the first half, earning a corner kick in the seventh minute after a blast by senior Matt Weaver was blocked by the Black Knight defense. Army found the back of the net first, when Michael Kim beat junior goalkeeper Ciaran Nugent on a penalty kick in the 15th minute to give the Black Knights a 1-0 lead. Weaver, sophomore Brian Suchoski and junior James Meyerkord each blasted shots toward the Army goal following the score, but to no avail as each attempted sailed either wide or high.
Sophomore Ali Famili was the first to test Army’s Winston Boldt, but the keeper was up for the task as he was able to make his only save of the half. Nugent was tested two more times in the first half and was able to stop each of the Black Knight shots as he and the rest of the defense were able to turn away any other Army opportunity. The two teams left the field after the first 45 minutes with the score remaining 1-0 in favor of Army.
The Mountain Hawks evened the score just 2:35 into the second half when Davis connected on a header off a set piece from Wysocki that flew past Boldt. The lead was short-lived, as the Black Knights bumped the score to 2-1 when Arnold Chun headed the ball past Nugent off a corner kick from Michael Kim in the 59th minute. Lehigh kept the pressure on the Army defense just three minutes following the goal, as senior captain Cameron Omsberg blasted a shot at Boldt, but the keeper was there to make the save this time. Omsberg kept at the attack, firing another shot about a minute later, but this one was blocked by an Army defender and never reached the keeper.
With just under 25 minutes to play, Lehigh fired a flurry of shots at the Army defense as freshman Ryan Bertrando and Meyerkord combined for three shots within a minute, but were unable to come up with a goal as each shot was blocked.
In the 86th minute, the Mountain Hawk attack finally broke through to find the equalizer when Wysocki found the back of the net from about 25 yards out on a bender to knot the score at two. Wysocki’s score would be the last of regulation as after 90 minutes, the score remained 2-2 and Lehigh entered its first overtime session of 2012.
"There was both excitement and relief that we were able to get level," said Koski. "I think we settled down and played more patiently in the second half. That goal was a good moment for us to build on, but we just didn’t get the other goal that we needed."
The Lehigh defense showed its strength yet again in the extra session when in the 95th minute, Michael Kim’s shot was cleared off out of the box by a defender to preserve the game. The Mountain Hawks continued to blast a barrage of shots in overtime but junior Kyle Lucas and Meyerkord were unable to find the net as they were blocked and sailed wide. After 100 minutes, the score remained 2-2 as Lehigh had 10 more minutes to work with to try and extend its season into the Patriot League Tournament.
"I thought we were good at getting into the attacking third to get ourselves into scoring positions, but it was frustrating to not get the shots on the frame," said Koski. "We had enough chances that if we could have put the ball on the frame, I think we could have found the back of the net."
In the second overtime period, Lehigh’s defense again came up big when it blocked Kim’s shot in the 105th minute and, on the counter, the offense again pressured the Black Knights when Meyerkord blasted another shot, but it was blocked away. The final scoring opportunity for the Mountain Hawks was a Weaver corner kick with just over 20 seconds to play, but Lehigh was unable to connect on the cross and as the horn sounded, the game ended in a 2-2 tie.
"Overall I think we see our season as a disappointment and we can’t feel good about this year in terms of results," said Koski. "We do feel positively about what the future might hold with our younger players, but we didn’t want to play for next year. We dealt with some unexpected injuries with key players, played a tough non-league schedule and persevered, but it was disappointing to not finish it off."
With the draw, Lehigh was eliminated from Patriot League Tournament contention.