BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After falling to American in a hard-fought, heartbreaking match last Saturday night, the Lehigh men’s soccer team will travel to West Point, N.Y. for its regular season finale against the Black Knights of Army. The Mountain Hawks will need to win and receive help from opponents in order to qualify for the Patriot League Tournament.
The Black Knights hold a slight edge in the all-time series, 19-18-5, although Lehigh has not lost a match to Army since 1996. The Mountain Hawks have won 14 of the last 15 matches against the Black Knights, the only non-win resulting in a 1-1 tie in 2003.
Lehigh is reeling from a 1-0 loss to American last Saturday night in the last regular season home game of 2012. In a first half full of scoring opportunities for the Mountain Hawks, Lehigh was unable to capitalize as freshman Ben Davis, sophomore Brian Suchoski and junior James Meyerkord each fired shots at the American goal and came close to finding the back of the net, but to no avail as the two teams entered halftime locked in a 0-0 draw.
American scored the lone goal of the game 1:09 into the second half when the Eagles were able to get behind the Lehigh defense on a counterattack and create a two-on-one situation with the last Lehigh defender. After cross to create a one-on-one match-up with Nugent, freshman Charlie Hunter blasted a shot past the junior keeper and inside the far post to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
The Lehigh attack didn’t quit, as the Mountain Hawks continued to create scoring opportunities with multiple crosses trickling through the American box, but none were connected on as the game ended with a 1-0 Eagles win.
The Mountain Hawks currently hold the sixth spot in the latest Patriot League standings (six points), sitting two points behind Bucknell and Holy Cross, which are tied for fourth place with eight points apiece. The simplest scenario that gets Lehigh into the Patriot League Tournament is if the Mountain Hawks beat Army, and American and Lafayette knock off Holy Cross and Bucknell, respectively this Saturday.
Lehigh’s offense is led by Meyerkord’s five points via two goals and an assist on the season. Sophomore Brian Suchoski has scored twice this season, both coming against Saint Peter’s earlier in the year. The Mountain Hawks have been timely with their scores, as senior Matt Weaver, junior Kyle Lucas and sophomore Ali Famili have each beaten teams with their game-winning goals. Nugent leads the Mountain Hawk net protection with 57 saves, good for fourth in the Patriot League, while posting a .740 save percentage over 1,217 minutes in goal this season.
Army will enter Saturday coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to NJIT on Wednesday night. After senior Josh Koeppe scored the equalizer in the 79th minute to extend the game into the extra session, the Highlanders scored with just one second remaining in the first overtime for the win. In their last five Patriot League matches, the Black Knights are 1-2-2 as they fell at Colgate and American in overtime before defeating Bucknell in Lewisburg.
Koeppe leads the Black Knight attack with four goals and two assists for his 10 points on the season. Senior Michael Kim and freshman Parker Dixon have each scored a goal and recorded an assist for their three points, while sophomore Kyle Golonski, junior Jason Lewis and freshman Jordan Lee have all beaten teams with their game-winning goals. On defense, sophomore Winston Boldt has been the only man in the net for Army, tallying all 1492:37 minutes of the action this season over 16 starts. Boldt has made 68 saves, posting a .739 save percentage and a 1.45 goals against average between the posts.
Saturday’s match against Army will conclude the regular season, but with a win and some help, the Mountain Hawks could earn a spot in the Patriot League Tournament. The tournament will be held in Washington, D.C. as American has clinched the top seed.