Posted: 06/20/2012 | Last updated: June 26, 2012 at 02:44 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Lehigh head women’s soccer coach Eric Lambinus announced the team’s 2012 schedule on Wednesday, featuring 17 games including three against defending NCAA Tournament squads. The Mountain Hawks play 10 nonleague games and seven league contests, including the final three of the regular season. Lehigh looks to qualify for the Patriot League Tournament and compete for its second league championship in the last three years.
“It’s a challenging schedule,” said Lambinus. “We start off with two Big East teams - home and away - which will be a difficult start to the season. Then we have a number of other teams who won their league in 2011. It’s a very challenging out-of-conference schedule that will prepare us for the Patriot League games.”
The Mountain Hawks begin the season against Seton Hall on Aug. 24, a team they tied 1-1 to begin last year. They then head to Providence to face the Friars for the first time in program history. After road games at Binghamton (Sept. 2) and Monmouth (Sept. 7), Lehigh returns home on the 14th to host Marist. The Red Foxes went 13-6-2 a season ago, winning the MAAC Tournament to advance to their first-ever NCAA Tournament.
Lehigh heads to Long Island two days later (Sept. 16) to face the Stony Brook Seawolves for the first time since 2006. It will serve as a homecoming for many Lehigh players.
“We have a number of student-athletes from that area,” said Lambinus. “We always draw players from the New York area, so it’s good to go back and play schools there. We’ve played Stony Brook in the past, so I thought it’d be good to change up the schedule, just a little bit, every now and then. They’re a good, quality team who’s been successful over a sustained period of time.”
The Mountain Hawks then return home for a pair against Atlantic 10 foes in Saint Joseph’s (Sept. 21) and La Salle (Sept. 23). The Explorers went undefeated through the regular season last year (15-0-2), winning the A-10 regular season title and eventually earning an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.
Lehigh plays its Patriot League opener on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Lafayette. That begins a stretch of six straight away from home (four league games), followed by trips to Columbia (Oct. 1), American (Oct. 5), Navy (Oct. 7), Princeton (Oct. 10) and Army (Oct. 14). The Black Knights captured the Patriot League Title a season ago before hanging tough in the NCAA Tournament, falling 1-0 at Penn State.
“We start off at Lafayette, which isn’t that far of a trip, but it’s still away,” said Lambinus. “Next is a really tough trip down at American and Navy during 4:00 [exams] week.
“It’s always good to play on the road because it bonds the team; it brings us together,” Lambinus continued. “The schedule doesn’t do us any favors by starting four straight league games on the road. It’s a challenge, but if we can start off getting some points, it’ll put us in a good position to utilize the home games.”
The Mountain Hawks return to the Ulrich Sports Complex for their final three regular season games, vs. Bucknell (Oct. 19), Colgate (Oct. 21) and Holy Cross (Oct. 27). The Patriot League Tournament is set for the following weekend at the #1 seed; the semifinals are Friday, Nov. 4 and championship game Sunday.
“It’s a good, balanced schedule,” said Lambinus. “It’s probably a little bit tougher than our schedule the last couple years. We’ll continue playing some of the Ivy League opponents - Princeton and Columbia - during Patriot League play, which helps us continue to develop during the league slate.
“The goal is to play better at the end of the season than the beginning,” Lambinus continued. “Sometimes, when you just play Patriot League games at the very end, you don’t really have room to experiment and try some new things. Putting those games in there is really important to continue to develop and give ourselves an opportunity to get better as we progress through the schedule.”
A continued young squad is eying a Patriot League Tournament berth where it hopes to compete for its second league title in the last three years. A roster of seventeen returnees and seven freshmen look to mesh beginning in preseason this August.
“The team’s really excited to create their own identity,” said Lambinus. “It’s exciting for the younger group to put their stamp on Lehigh women’s soccer; this is their opportunity. We have a good sense of who we are, what we do well and what we need to improve on. Preseason and the nonleague schedule will give us that opportunity to further develop so we’re ready to go into the Patriot League schedule.”