It has been a season of rapid improvement for the men’s soccer team, which turned a two-win 2013 into an inspiring 2014 season that saw the team go 10-7-1 and secure a home playoff game.
The team made sure that it would be playing another game in the Ulrich Sports Complex by closing out its season with a win against the College of Holy Cross 2-1.
The Mountain Hawks (5-3-1 conference) now move on to play Bucknell University at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. This is the first time Lehigh has made it to the quarterfinals since 2011.
In preparation for the quarterfinals, the team does not look to change much in its practices. Coach Dean Koski said the team’s main focus is to concentrate on rest, recovery and keeping its players healthy by eating well and getting enough sleep. He said they are really making sure the guys are being taken care of in their academics.
“Right now, there is no magic formula,” Koski said. “We are just making sure we are physically and mentally ready.”
Koski said it has been a very tiring three-month season for the players. Koski said the team is really trying to back off in the length of its training sessions and become more efficient by taking a few days off to recoup.
Freshman forward Doyle Tuvesson said that he feels the team has definitely felt and appreciated the temporary break in the action. The team was off last Sunday and Monday and met to watch films on Tuesday. He said the team has felt the lighter load and that it was nice to have a week off with the stress of four o’clock exams before the game against Holy Cross.
“It will make a difference because everyone will get their legs back (…) so we will be a lot more fresh for the game,” Tuvesson said.
Lehigh’s top scorer, junior forward/midfielder Jamie Luchini, said having Sunday and Monday off was very helpful for the players who are banged up and able to get treatment. He also said the rest for the players’ legs will make a difference in the long run.
“We are being smarter with practices and managing injuries this part of the season as things start to build up,” Luchini said.
Luchini has six goals and eight assists this season. Tuvesson follows behind Luchini, with five goals and four assists for the season.
Tuvesson said the team wants to lock in on all the errors it has been having the past couple of games. He said the players want to be solid defensively and get a shutout.
“We’ve been having lapses in the defense where we will miss man marks and been giving up simple goals we shouldn’t be giving up,” Tuvesson said. Tuvesson said there are also a few adjustments offensively that the team is looking to change to get everything ready for the playoffs.
“Offensively, we need to connect more instead of just playing long balls up top,” he said.
Luchini said that other than winning, the team’s goal is to just play its best and play as it has been of late. He said its main focus is not giving up goals defensively and capitalizing on its chances offensively.
The team’s win against Holy Cross means a shorter week for the team to prepare for the next game. This is also its second time playing Bucknell. On Oct. 4, Lehigh defeated the Bison 2-1 in Lewisburg.
“Everything is heightened; it’s a win or go home,” Luchini said.
Luchini said he is specifically preparing for the quarterfinals just as he would a normal game. While this is a new experience, he is preparing like he did for his high school and club playoffs. He said the format is the exact same and just requires extra focus. Tuvesson said his mental preparation is just as important as any other type of preparation.
The team hopes to have a full stadium of Lehigh support on Tuesday in the game against Bucknell as it takes part in the quarterfinals.