BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh men’s soccer senior Kevin Strunk was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive year and sophomore Ciaran Nugent was named the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year while three other Mountain Hawks were also named to the All-League Team, as announced by the league on Tuesday.
Strunk, Nugent and senior midfielder Neal Melchionni were named to the first team while senior forward Joe Puleo and junior defender Cameron Omsberg cracked the second team.
After Strunk won the award last season, he was the Patriot League’s 2011 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the 2011 Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy Watch List .The Mac Hermann Trophy is the highest individual honor in collegiate soccer.
Strunk has started every game the past three years and has played the most minutes on the team this season totally 1,656. He has led Lehigh to its third straight Patriot League Tournament berth and a highly nationally ranked defense. The Mountain Hawks rank No. 3 in goals against average (0.43), No. 4 in saves percentage (0.893) and No. 6 in shutout percentage (0.59).
The Downingtown, Pa. native has not only been a force in the back, but he is third on the team in points with three goals and one assist. The 6-foot-3 back takes a majority of the free kicks, which he scored on once this year, and throws his tall frame around in the box on corner kicks. Of his three goals, two have been game winners.
His biggest came back on September 24th in the Patriot League opener against the two-time defending League champion Bucknell. In double-overtime, Strunk found the back of the net with a header in the 106th minute to give Lehigh a 1-0 win to get the Patriot League slate started off on the right foot.
Right behind Strunk in net is Nugent who had a breakout sophomore season. The Dedham, Mass. native only started one match last season as a rookie but after Lehigh graduated its keeper, Nugent has stepped into the role and been stellar.
Nugent ranks No.3 in the nation in goals against average (.440), only surpassed by the keepers from No. 2 Creighton and No. 7 UConn. Nugent has allowed just eight goals in 17 games and 1636 minutes of action.
Nugent also ranks No. 4 nationally in save percentage (.889). During the course of the season, Nugent had been named the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the week three times.
One of Nugent’s more impressive efforts on the year came against then-No. 22 California as the keeper made a career-high eight saves as he was faced with 19 shots and 11 corner kicks for the match. Two of his biggest saves came in the final 10 minutes of regulation when Nugent stopped shots in the 85th and 90th minute to preserve the 1-1 tie.
Two days later, Nugent had an equally impressive performance two days later as he shutout a Stanford team that was coming off an upset victory over then-No. 15 Kentucky 3-0. Nugent made four saves for the match as Stanford took 20 shots and 11 corner kicks.
For his efforts over those two matches, Nugent was named the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week, the College Soccer 360 Soccer National Primetime Player of the Week for Division I men’s soccer and was the ECAC Defensive Player of the Week.
Lehigh’s five All-League honorees are tied for the most in the Patriot League.
Melchionni and Omsberg - the team’s co-captains - have helped lead Lehigh from the front and the back respectively. Melchionni is second on the team with nine points as he has four goals and one assist. Two of his goals have been game-winners. Omsberg, who does have a goal and assist on the season, plays alongside Strunk in the back is another part of the reason why Lehigh’s defense has been superb. Puleo leads the team with 10 points (4 goals, 2 assists), 37 shots and 22 shots on goal for a stellar .595 SOG percentage.
Strunk, Nugent, Melchionni, Omsberg and Puleo along with the rest of the Mountain Hawks will begin their run to what they hope is a Patriot League title on Friday at 2 p.m. as the No. 3 seed Lehigh takes on No. 2 Colgate at 2 p.m. in Washington, D.C. The Mountain Hawks and Raiders played to a 0-0 draw earlier this season while Colgate has not lost since its Patriot League opener when it fell to American on September 24th. Lehigh has fallen in the semifinals the previous two years in the Tournament, but is hoping to turn that around this year.