Posted: 10/22/2012 | Last updated: October 23, 2012 at 10:37 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Fresh off a 1-0 victory over the Holy Cross Crusaders, the Lehigh men’s soccer team will wrap up its non-league schedule on the road when it travel to College Park, Md. to take on the top-ranked Maryland Terrapins on Tuesday night. The match will be Lehigh’s final tune-up before two crucial Patriot League tilts to finish the regular season, including Saturday’s Senior Day game against American.
Lehigh is riding a three-game winning streak which includes back-to-back shutout performances as the Mountain Hawks have moved themselves into sole possession of fourth place in the Patriot League standings after their recent resurgence. The final stretch of games will determine the 2012 Patriot League Tournament field, as Lehigh will return to league play on Saturday with a home match against the Eagles before finishing the season on the road in West Point, N.Y. against the Black Knights of Army.
First, Lehigh will square off with the undefeated and top-ranked Maryland Terrapins tomorrow night in its non-league finale. Maryland has won 12-consecutive games coming into Tuesday night’s action, which includes a 1-0 overtime victory over the then second-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels last Friday. Lehigh will be the second Patriot League team the Terps will play, as they knocked off the Colgate Raiders, 2-0, on October 16. The Mountain Hawks will enter a hostile environment that averages about 3,500 fans per contest when they take to the turf at Ludwig Field.
In their last match, the Mountain Hawk defense stifled the Crusaders en route to a 1-0 Patriot League victory. The first half started as a defensive battle with the ball primarily played in the middle of the field due to intense defensive pressure. Lehigh was able to rip multiple shots at the Crusader net, but came up empty, including a blast by senior Matt Weaver that went just wide of the near side corner. Goalkeeper Ciaran Nugent made two saves over the first 45 minutes to preserve the draw for the time being.
In the second half, it looked as though the draw had been broken when junior James Meyerkord blasted a shot at the Holy Cross goal that was stopped by the Crusader keeper but trickled out into the box. Weaver fired the rebound into the back of the net, but the goal was waved off, as the referees determined he was offside, keeping the score at 0-0.
Lehigh’s luck would change when with just more than seven minutes remaining in the game, junior Kyle Lucas found the back of the net off a rebound on the goal line to put the Mountain Hawks up 1-0. After the goal, the Mountain Hawk defense remained stingy, closing out the remaining time and posting its second-straight shutout.
Brian Suchoski continues to lead the offense with two goals for four points, but five other Mountain Hawks have found the back of the net this season, including Meyerkord and sophomore Rylan Collins, as each has collected a goal and an assist to give them a second-best three points apiece. On defense, Nugent has made 51 saves thus far this season, averaging 3.92 per game which is good for fourth in the Patriot League. During the Mountain Hawks’ three-game winning streak, Nugent has earned all three wins and recorded the two shutouts as the leader of the Lehigh net protection.
Tuesday’s contest will mark just the fourth time the two programs will match-up in history, as the Terrapins hold a 3-0 all-time advantage. The last time the two institutions met, Maryland escaped Bethlehem with a 3-0 win at Ulrich Sports Complex in 2010. The Mountain Hawks kept the game at a one-goal deficit until the contest reached the 74th minute when the Terps scored twice within 1:31 to seal a victory.
In Maryland’s 1-0 victory over North Carolina last Friday, freshman Schillo Tshuma redirected a shot by Patrick Mullins late in the first overtime to secure the win for the Terrapins. Mullins leads the team in scoring on the season with eight goals and 24 points, followed by Tshuma with six, while senior John Stertzer leads the team in assists with four.
On defense Maryland is led by sophomore goalkeeper Keith Cardona, who has started in 11 games. He has posted a goal against average of 0.71 with 23 saves on the season and a record of 10-0-1. Cardona’s shutout of North Carolina was his sixth on the season which ranks him third in the ACC.
After Tuesday’s match, the Mountain Hawks will host American on Oct. 27 in a highly anticipated battle between two teams that will carry postseason implications. The match is slated to start at 7 p.m. at the Ulrich Sports Complex and will be Lehigh’s Senior Day.
Written by CJ McCollum ‘13