Lehigh senior forward Doyle Tuvesson carries the ball up the field while being defended by Seton Hall senior captain Lukas Pangonis during a game on Sept. 19 at Ulrich Sports Complex. The Mountain Hawks will face Lafayette at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Ulrich Sports Complex. (Sarah Epstein/B&W Staff)

Lehigh soccer looks to secure pair of Lafayette wins to set both teams up for playoff spots

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The Lehigh women’s and men’s soccer teams have both won nine more games than they’ve lost against Lafayette College since their respective rivalries began. Saturday’s games will determine whether or not the Mountain Hawks will secure two more victories.

In the 26 years since the women’s team first faced off against the Leopards in 1991, the team has emerged victorious in 17 out of the 27 games played, with two ending in a tie.

It’s been 104 years since the men’s team first challenged its long-time rival in 1913, and the Mountain Hawks have won 56 of 113 rivalry games, with 10 concluding in a tie.

The men’s team (7-4-1, 2-1-1 PL) will host the Leopards (2-10-0, 1-3-0 PL), while the women’s team (6-3-4, 2-1-2 PL) will travel to Lafayette (3-6-2, 1-3-1 PL) in hopes of earning wins that will set each team up for playoff spots early in the season.

Men’s senior captain and forward Doyle Tuvesson said he knows on paper the team should be able to beat the Leopards but added that any Patriot League game is going to be full of surprises.

“We can’t go into it thinking that it’s not going to be a challenge,” Tuvesson said, “but we do feel we should be able to win the game.”

Women’s senior captain Alyssa Riporti said the majority of the time when the Mountain Hawks play against teams in the Patriot League, it’s about more than the other team’s record.

“We’re never concerned with how the other team is doing,” Riporti said. “It’s more us dictating the energy.”

Lehigh men’s soccer coach Dean Koski said his team can’t afford to look at its opponent’s record during league play because of the importance of the match.

“We treat it as a very important rivalry that we have,” Koski said, “and we respect the Rivalry, but at the end of the day, we need to go out there and win a soccer game. Three points is three points.”

While both Tuvesson and Koski said the team feels no additional pressure during the Rivalry, Riporti and women’s soccer coach Eric Lambinus said games against Lafayette always bring a different energy.

To prepare for a rivalry match of this caliber, the teams practice under pressure, as the coaches try to bring the players to another level of intensity.

“Our coach will give the other team a free kick or a penalty kick just to get under the other team’s skin,” Riporti said. “See how they’ll react and control the emotions that come.”

Lambinus said part of the challenge is balancing how to embrace the Rivalry without letting it get in the way of the team’s performance.

“They’re definitely going to be challenged to give the Rivalry what it deserves, but yet control our emotions as well and play it the way we know how to play it,” Lambinus said.

Both teams look to conquer the Rivalry but also seek revenge from last year’s losses to Lafayette.

The men’s team lost 0-1 on a penalty kick.

“We played down to their level,” Tuvesson said. “We were just kicking the ball as opposed to playing with the skill players that we have. We need to make sure that we don’t let them control the flow of the game.”

He said a victory over Lafayette would land Lehigh in one of the top spots in the league in terms of points and would put the Mountain Hawks in a good position to secure a playoff spot early on.

While the women’s team won its regular season game against Lafayette last year, the Leopards ended the Mountain Hawks’ season in the Patriot League quarterfinals, 0-1, after two overtimes.

Riporti said the women’s team is going to use its rivalry loss last season to give it the edge it needs to conquer Lafayette.

“We see Lafayette as a team we can beat if we play our game,” Riporti said. “We have a few more important games we still have to play — Bucknell, Loyola and Holy Cross — so keeping that momentum would be huge going toward that tournament.”

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