ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Lehigh women’s soccer team pulled even late in the first half, but Navy’s Paloma Perez came alive with a natural hat trick in the second to down the Mountain Hawks, 4-1, in the Patriot League Semifinals on Friday evening. Junior Murphee Greeley netted the game-tying goal, but #4 Lehigh couldn’t contain top seed and host Navy, who extended its unbeaten streak to 20 games and will face Colgate in Sunday’s Patriot League Championship Game.
The Mountain Hawks finish their 2012 season with a 5-13-0 record, advancing to their second Patriot League Tournament in the last three seasons. Lehigh defeated Bucknell, Colgate and Holy Cross to reach the postseason. Lehigh remains the only Patriot League team to defeat Colgate, who topped American 3-0 earlier Friday to advance to Sunday’s title game.
"Tonight was kind of a microcosm of our season," said Lehigh head coach Eric Lambinus. "At times, we did some really good things but I don’t think we were consistent enough over a period of time to win the game. I thought Navy played really well, was really aggressive and attacked consistently. We had trouble containing them and we weren’t able to attack over a period of time to be dangerous enough."
Lehigh pressured early on, earning the game’s first corner in the fourth minute. However, not long after, Navy’s Brittany Fruin blasted a perfectly-place shot from outside the box which sailed into the upper-right corner of the net to make it 1-0 at 5:02. That marked the game’s first shot, breaking the Mountain Hawks’ scoreless streak at 290:03 dating back to the Bucknell contest exactly two weeks ago.
In the 18th minute, Lehigh earned a pair of golden opportunities less than a minute apart. First, junior Paige Dyrek fed sophomore Darby Wiegand on the left side, but her shot was blocked. Just seconds later, the Mountain Hawks were sprung on a three-on-two, but the cross didn’t connect to keep it at 1-0.
The Midshipmen posted eight first-half shots, but the Mountain Hawks’ defense held them to only four on goal, forcing freshman goalie Ani Nahapetian to make three saves. That gave Lehigh a chance and the offense wouldn’t disappoint. Senior Isabelle Li took a free kick, which Navy couldn’t clear. Junior Murphee Greeley came out of the scramble and fired a shot past goalie Elizabeth Hoerner to make it 1-1 in the 43rd minute.
Perez came alive with two goals in the first 14:26 of the second half to give Navy a 3-1 advantage. Perez first took a feed from Ashlynn Soellner and finished, making it 2-1 in the 49th minute. Just over 10 minutes later, Morgan Dankanich fed Perez in on goal. Nahapetian came out strong, but Perez got a piece and it rolled into the open net at 59:26.
Perez added a third goal in the 80th minute, sending a loose ball to the far post, essentially ending any hopes Lehigh had of a comeback. The Mountain Hawks did fire four of their 11 shots over the final 10:59, with two on goal, but couldn’t beat Hoerner for a second time as Lehigh’s three-game winning streak came to an end.
Navy held the final edge in shots (20-11) and corner kicks (6-4). Nahapetian finished with four saves, to go with a team save, while Hoerner stopped six-of-seven sent her way.
"There were definitely a lot of good things that we can take out of this season," said Lambinus. "We can play when we do things. One thing we have to do better is bring the same level intensity that we bring at home on the road. It has to do with maturity and mental toughness. Figuring out how to do those things on the road is the next step to become a team like Navy."
Check back to Lehighsports.com throughout the offseason for continued news and notes. The Mountain Hawks return 19 of the 23 on their roster, including All-Patriot League performers Paige Elliott and Greeley.
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