Two second-half goals from sophomore Gianfranco Giammatteo and a sturdy defensive performance led the Lehigh men’s soccer team to a comfortable 4-0 win over the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights on Tuesday night.
Although several Hawks starters were rested in anticipation of Saturday night’s crucial Patriot League matchup against Army, Lehigh dictated the pace of the match and hardly allowed Fairleigh Dickinson any chances on goal. Freshman goalkeeper Joe Bogan was not forced to make a save all night.
Lehigh’s defensive unit, anchored by sophomore center back Justin Worley and senior captain Ali Famili, stifled the Fairleigh Dickinson attackers. Worley was especially impressive in defense, as his composure and maturity continues to impress his teammates.
“Justin did a great job of communicating with the guys in front of him tonight,” Famili said. “He’s improved in that area so much. For a sophomore, his composure on the ball and positional instincts are also impressive.”
The Mountain Hawks ran away with the match in the second half, where they carved up the Fairleigh Dickinson defense and notched three goals, all of which were scored by substitutes. Giammatteo was able to grab two goals, while freshman striker Doyle Tuvesson scored the other.
For Giammatteo’s first goal, Lehigh stole the ball from Fairleigh Dickinson in midfield, which allowed Lehigh to start the counterattack. Giammatteo, Tuvesson and junior Jamie Luchini worked an intricate set of passes as Lehigh broke towards goal. Luchini eventually found Giammetteo running in front of goal to score his first of the night in the 81st minute. He added a second goal in the 87th to bring the score to 4-0.
“Gio brings a ton of energy every time he’s on the field, and he works hard to get himself in good positions,” Famili said. “It’s nice having him off the bench to provide a spark for us.”
Giammetteo, a native of Summit, New Jersey, is adjusting to his role as an impact player off the bench. On Tuesday night, it looked like he was thriving in it.
“It’s been different, but it’s a role I’ve had to undertake, and I know that I have limited time to impact the game,” Giammetteo said. “I just try to bring as much energy as I possibly can and hope to help the team.”
Lehigh first got on the board in the 16th minute, when a perfect advantage decision from the referee allowed freshman midfielder David Zipkin to find some space on the right wing. Zipkin curled in a perfect cross to the back post, where junior Kyle Chin completed a sliding finish for the goal. The goal was Chin’s first of his career.
The Hawks were able to spread the field and allow their wide players to provide width in the attack. The players in the center of midfield picked players out well and found space when they could, a feat the Hawks had hoped to accomplish heading into the match.
“In midfield, I thought we received the ball and made quick decisions,” senior forward Brian Suchoski said. “We spread the ball around nicely and spaced the field well to open up options.”
Tuesday night’s victory primes Lehigh for an extremely important match against Army Saturday night. As the playoff picture continues to situate itself, Lehigh needs to add three points as often as they can. The Army game presents a major opportunity to do just that against a quality team.
“Whenever you win 4-0, it puts the team in a good mindset; it makes us more confident,” Suchoski said. “But we can’t be satisfied with this win. The Army game is huge, and we have to stay hungry.”
After Tuesday night’s victory, the Mountain Hawks are tied for fifth place in the Patriot League standings with several other teams. The top six teams will progress to the Patriot League tournament, while the bottom four will not participate.
Famili said Lehigh needs at least two wins to secure a spot in the playoffs.
The Mountain Hawks will honor their seniors on Saturday night against Army at the Ulrich Sports Complex. The match begins at 7 p.m. and is also available to watch online via the Patriot League Network.