After clinching a playoff spot in a 4-2 victory over Loyola University last Saturday, the Lehigh men’s soccer team will host No. 5 seed Holy Cross in the Patriot League quarterfinals Tuesday.
Lehigh’s last appearance in the playoffs was in 2015, where it captured a Patriot League title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Despite finishing with a disappointing 3-6 conference record last year, Lehigh (11-6-1) turned it around this season and will be returning to the playoffs as a No. 4 seed with a conference record of 5-3-1.
“I think what made the biggest difference for our team this year has largely to do with our leadership from the upperclassmen,” senior forward Jack Miskel said. “We also came in with a stronger collective understanding of our team’s goals and how we were going to achieve them.”
After suffering injuries last season, junior forward Mark Forrest and midfielder Alex Greene returned this season to run the offense with senior Doyle Tuvesson. The trio drives the offensive production on the field, contributing 72 points to the team’s 101.
“Alex Greene and Mark Forrest being hurt for most of last season was definitely a huge upset,” assistant coach Ryan Hess said. “You can see the type of qualities those guys have in terms of helping and aiding our attack, and their health has been a huge factor in winning the games that we have.”
Despite Lehigh’s winning record, Tuvesson refuses to be complacent in the face of the playoffs.
“We’re really happy with the record especially after last year,” Tuvesson said. “But we also know that we haven’t accomplished anything yet and need to perform in the playoffs for this year to be a success.”
Miskel is pleased with the way the regular season turned out, but he is aware of the heightened stakes that accompany the playoffs and is up for the task.
“It feels great to be where we are heading into the postseason,” Miskel said. “Ending last year the way we did left a lot of us with a bad taste in our mouths and definitely played a role in our success thus far. That being said, our record is irrelevant in the playoffs. It’s win or go home.”
The Mountain Hawks intend to enter the tournament with the same mindset they’ve harnessed all season: to take it game by game and understand that every team is a threat.
Hess said he believes the team’s commitment in the season will pay off.
“The boys understand what’s going to be necessary to be successful, and we certainly have a talented enough group to get it done,” Hess said.
He added that the team is solid both defensively and offensively, and its ability to work as a cohesive unit has been a driving force behind its success as a team.
“We know that every game is going to be a challenge,” Hess said. “But I believe that if we don’t take any teams lightly, then we’re fit and healthy enough to go into the tournament more than prepared.”
Just three days after losing to the Crusaders on the road, the Mountain Hawks will regroup and play them again. This time they will be in their home venue with a trip to Patriot League semifinals on the line.