BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh women’s soccer team kicked off preseason practice earlier this week, as the Mountain Hawks continue to prepare for their season opener next Friday (Aug. 24) vs. Seton Hall. Monday featured conditioning before holding their first practice on a rainy Tuesday morning. A young roster features seven freshmen and six sophomores, along with six juniors and four seniors.
“It’s great to have everybody back,” said head coach Eric Lambinus. “We’re excited about the year; we’re excited to do some things we weren’t able to achieve last year. The girls are really ready for the season.”
After a Patriot League Championship in 2010, Lehigh went 6-9-2 last year, but showed flashes of brilliance. Highlighting the season was a tie against eventual league champion Army in which the Mountain Hawks took 16 of the game’s final 18 shots. Lehigh also defeated league finalist Navy and topped Columbia for the first time since 1993.
The Mountain Hawks graduated a strong senior class of six, including current graduate assistant coach Genna Pepe. But they do return First Team All-Patriot League honoree Murphee Greeley and sophomore goalie Ashley Blanks, who posted the fifth-best goals against average in school history (1.14). In total, Lehigh returns five of its top seven point-getters from 2011.
“It’s really exciting to be back,” said Greeley. “We came out and had a really strong first day. Everyone looked really good. It’s definitely a positive way to begin the season. Now, we’re looking forward to learning each other’s play, getting together, getting out here, working hard and seeing what we can put together.”
“We only have two weeks before our first game, so we want to make sure the girls did their work in the summer which we’re really happy to report they did,” said Lambinus. “They came back really fit and ready to go, so that allows us to do more throughout preseason soccer-wise. We start from scratch. It’s just the start then by the end of the week, we hope to get to a bigger scale.”
Greeley and senior Isabelle Li will serve as co-captains, helping lead a young squad of 13 underclassmen.
“Everyone that’s an upperclassman is a leader; it’s not just the captains,” said Li. “We have three other seniors on our team and they’re just as much as leaders as anyone else.”
Selected fifth in the Patriot League preseason poll, the Mountain Hawks hope to repeat 2010 when they were also predicted fifth, but went onto their first Patriot League Title.
Lehigh plays a home scrimmage this Friday night at 7 p.m. against Kutztown before beginning regular season play next Friday vs. Seton Hall. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. at the Ulrich Sports Complex.
“Right now, we’re going through identification,” said Laminbus. “We know the freshmen really well, but we never know how they’re going to adjust. We’re trying to solidify our roster and our lineup right now so we can go into the season with a good lineup, and then make some adjustments from there.”
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