BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Coming off a hard-fought 1-0 loss in its Patriot League opener on Sunday, the Lehigh men’s soccer team will clash with Big Ten-foe Penn State at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night at the Ulrich Sports Complex. It will be the final game of a four-game homestand for the Mountain Hawks before they hit the road for a trip to New York on Saturday for a Patriot League match with Colgate.
Lehigh is 2-13-5 all-time against Penn State, with the last match ending in a 1-1 draw at Happy Valley in September of 2009. The last win for the Mountain Hawks over the Nittany Lions was in 2008 when Lehigh topped Penn State 2-1 after then-captain Adam Gazda scored two first half goals en route to the victory.
In their last match, the Mountain Hawks fell to Bucknell on Sunday night, 1-0, after an extremely physical battle with the Bison. After withstanding pressure to start the first half from Bucknell, Lehigh went on the attack and created its best scoring opportunity of the game. Sophomore Brian Suchoski threw the ball in to senior Cameron Omsberg who headed the ball at Bucknell keeper Mike Lansing. Lansing made the save but the rebound bounced into the middle of the box, but unfortunately no Mountain Hawks were on the spot to put the ball into the open net and a Bison defender cleared the rock, ending the Lehigh threat.
Bucknell capitalized in the second half when Brendan Burgdorf ripped an angle shot from the right side and off of the rebound from the Nugent save, freshman Jesse Klug took a sliding shot and scored to put Bucknell up, 1-0.
Lehigh continued with relentless pressure throughout the remainder of the second half but each shot was either saved or was off-target, resulting in a taxing Patriot League loss for the Mountain Hawks. The defense of Lehigh was again strong, as junior goalkeeper Ciaran Nugent was able to make five saves throughout the 90 minutes of action, while the Mountain Hawks outshot Bucknell, 18-16 on the night.
Suchoski leads the Lehigh offense with two goals on the season, while freshman Dilan Casanovas Mack and junior Ben Wysocki have each recorded an assist thus far. Suchoski also leads the team in shots with 20, followed by sophomore Ali Famili with 10. On defense, Nugent has stopped 29 shots in the net, posting a .744 save percentage and a 1.63 goals against average.
Penn State will enter tomorrow’s contest coming off a 1-0 Big Ten victory over the Badgers of Wisconsin on Friday night. Freshman Kelton Cheney broke a scoreless draw in the 82nd minute when he connected on a strike off a cross from senior Hasani Sinclair for the eventual game-winner. Penn State kept the pressure on the Badger defense all night, forcing Wisconsin goalie Chase Rau to make six saves, while beating him once.
The Nittany Lions are riding a three-game winning streak during which they have not allowed a goal. The Penn State defense has posted four consecutive shutouts, as an opposing team has not scored on the Nittany Lions since a 2-1 loss at Georgetown on Sept. 2.
Senior Julian Cardona leads the Penn State offense with a team-high five goals and 11 points on the season. Senior Daniel Burnham has added two goals of his own, while five other Nittany Lions have found the back of the net thus far. Senior Minh Vu has been the set-up man for Penn State, registering a team-best three assists to aid the Nittany Lion attack. On defense, Penn State has used three different goalkeepers this season, but senior Emmanuel Martin has collected the most time in the net, starting five games this year. Martin has registered a team-high seven saves but allowed all four goals scored on Penn State in 2012. Sophomore Andrew Wolverton has started two games and played in three, recording six saves and a perfect 1.000 save percentage.
This will be the Nittany Lions’ third road test as Penn State has played just two matches away from home thus far, splitting the two games with a loss at Georgetown before the win this past Friday against Wisconsin.
After Tuesday’s game with Penn State, the Mountain Hawks will travel to Hamilton, N.Y. to continue Patriot League play for a match-up with the Colgate Raiders at Van Doren Field. Game time is set for 7 p.m.