BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Three Lehigh men’s soccer players have been named to the 2011 NCAA Men’s Division I All-Mid-Atlantic Team, as announced by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Friday. Senior back Kevin Strunk was named to the first team while sophomore goalkeeper Ciaran Nugent and senior midfielder Neal Melchionni were named to the second team.
Strunk was the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive year and at the start of the season, 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.
The Downingtown, Pa. native started every game the past three years for the Brown and White and played the most minutes on the team this season totally 1,766 minutes. He has led Lehigh to three straight Patriot League Tournament berths and a highly nationally ranked defense. The Mountain Hawks rank No. 2 in save percentage (.900), No. 3 in shutout percentage (0.61) and No. 3 in goals against average (0.41).
Strunk 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 defender took a majority of Lehigh’s free kicks, which he scored on once this year, and of his three goals, two have been game winners. His biggest came on September 24th in the Patriot League opener against the then two-time defending Patriot 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 victory which got the Mountain Hawks’ Patriot League slate 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 (.412), only surpassed by the keepers from No. 2 Creighton, which is in the 2011 NCAA College Cup Final Four, and No. 3 UConn. Nugent allowed just eight goals in 18 games and 1746 minutes of action.
Nugent also ranks No. 3 nationally in save percentage (.896). 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.
Melchionni, who was the team’s senior co-captain this season and started every game for the Mountain Hawks, was second on the team in points with 9 and tied for the goals lead with four. Two of his goals have been game winners as he netted the winning goal in a 2-0 against Saint Peter’s and in the regular-season finale against Army in a 3-0 win which clinched a Patriot League Tournament berth for Lehigh. His other two goals came in a 4-1 victory over Holy Cross.
The Marmora, N.J. was second on the team in shots on goal with 16 and he tallied one assist in a 2-0 win over Navy.