Senior defender and midfielder Adrian Vitello goes for the ball on Oct. 28 at Ulrich Sports Complex. The team ended the season with a 5-2-2 record in Patriot League play. (Alexis King/B&W Staff)

Lehigh women’s soccer looks back on successful season after quarterfinal loss

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History repeated itself on Oct. 31 as the Lehigh women’s soccer season ended after the first round of the Patriot League Tournament. It was the second consecutive year that the team’s season was cut short with a first round loss — both coming in overtime.

In the 99th minute of the quarterfinal game, Colgate University senior Emily Crichlow blasted a shot from the top of the box. It sailed into the top left corner of Lehigh’s goal and tore through the hearts of the Mountain Hawks.

“It’s very frustrating because we were one play away from winning in a close game like that,” coach Eric Lambinus said.

Although the Mountain Hawks fell short in the tournament match, they accomplished one of their season goals —making the Patriot League Tournament. It was the second time in the last five years the team made it this far.

In the team’s 2016 tournament run, longtime rival Lafayette College stopped the Mountain Hawks in their tracks and prevented Lehigh from advancing to the semifinals.

The Mountain Hawks finished the 2017 season 9-5-4 with a 5-2-2 Patriot League record. They were seeded fifth in the conference.

“We were a lot better this year than how we have been in years’ past,” sophomore forward Maggie Wadsworth said. “We worked well together, and we were a cohesive team.”

Sophomore midfielder and defender Annika Jansa agreed the team possessed a much more cohesive style of play this year.

“We played a better game,” Jansa said. “We showed that we are a technical team that can play through the midfield rather than just kicking the ball around.”

Despite the team’s elimination from the tournament, the season was filled with several season highlights, including a 2-1 win against Big East powerhouse St. John’s University on Sept. 10, a 2-0 shutout win against Lafayette on Oct. 14 and a 3-0 victory against Holy Cross on Senior Day, Oct. 28.

In the first half of the season, the team went on a three-game winning streak that was followed by three tied games in a row.

This season’s team also highlighted a few standout players.

Sophomore goalkeeper Sam Miller had a historic season in goal.

She posted a save percentage of 0.833, and her goals against average percentage of 0.58 was the second best mark in school history. She was also named Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week six times.

“It’s great to have her,” Lambinus said. “Our defense does a great job of keeping the opponents to shots from distance, and Sam and our group of goalkeepers are excellent at keeping those shots out of the goal.”

The team featured five All-Patriot League performers. Seniors Alyssa Riporti and Adrian Vitello were named First Team All-Patriot League, Miller received Second-Team honors and Wadsworth and senior Amanda Stratton reeled in Third-Team honors.

Despite the triumphant moments and exceptional performers, the Mountain Hawks struggled in close games.

The season featured six overtime games, with just one resulting in a victory earlier on in the season against Temple University.

Jansa said she believes the team will be able to work over the offseason to turn the close defeats into victories.

“Most of those overtime games were games that we underperformed in,” Jansa said. “I think that we will improve and be ready to play a consistent 90-minute game come next year.”

The Mountain Hawks will lose six seniors, three of whom received All-Patriot League honors.

“It’s going to be different without the seniors next season,” Jansa said. “They all had unique qualities and always brought a competitive edge to practice.”

Although the seniors will leave a large void, the team’s future looks bright. The Mountain Hawks return 21 players, including all five of their top goal scorers.

Lambinus said he is confident the team will have a strong offseason and come into next season prepared.

 “I think we’ll come out of the offseason and continue to put ourselves in the situation to compete for championships,” he said.

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