Sophomore forward/midfielder Mark Forrest slide tackles in game against University of Pittsburgh at the Ulrich Sporting Complex on Sunday Aug. 30, 2015. Lehigh lost the match 0-3. (Aminat Ologunebi/B&W Staff)

Lehigh men’s soccer makes Patriot League championship its goal

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After three weeks of preseason in August’s heat, the Lehigh men’s soccer team begins its season at full throttle, with a team goal of becoming the next Patriot League champions.

From the start, senior midfielder Ryan Bertrando said each team member came into preseason fit and excited about the team’s potential.

“Preseason is always hard on the body because of the long hours, workouts, scrimmages and drills, but everyone came to work hard every day to achieve our goals,” he said.

Team goals include going further in the Patriot League tournament than last year. Last season, the Mountain Hawks lost 4-0 against No. 5 seed Bucknell University in the first round of the tournament.

“We certainly want to go further in the Patriot League tournament and win the championship,” junior midfielder Danny Gonzalez said. “The team had some big wins last season, so hopefully we can follow the footsteps of last year in that regard.”

Last season, the Hawks finished the season 10-8-1 (5-3-1). Victories included wins against American University, Bucknell, Army, Colgate University and the College of the Holy Cross.

“We look forward to defeating these teams again, as well as the ones we lost to last season,” Bertrando said.

Gonzalez also said freshmen will have a huge impact on the team this year since they have adjusted quickly.

“Two out of our three goals in our first game were scored by freshmen, so their impact has been immediate,” he said. “Every single one of them has the capability to earn playing time this season, if not start, which is very rare for a freshmen class of seven.”

Freshmen include midfielder/forward Ben Bates, defender Calum Bishop, defender Oscar Greene, midfielder Alex Greene, forward/midfielder Mark Forrest, defender Matt Morana and forward Donovan Perayeff. Greene and Perayeff both scored in the team’s season opener against Fairleigh Dickinson University last week. The Hawks won 3-0.

Although freshmen have helped the team’s success thus far, coach Dean Koski believes the upperclassmen play a significant role in terms of reaching goals.

“I think it’s appropriate to focus on our upperclassmen as they are the most experienced players and will have the greatest impact on our team and season,” he said. “Our seniors (Jamie) Luchini, (Brian) Vail, (Ben) Davis, Bertrando, (Kyle) Chin and (Everett) McCord are very important to this program and the leadership on this team.”

Koski also said that the juniors and sophomores on the team will contribute significantly.

“With the quality of depth that we have on our team, it is my ardent hope that many of them will play,” Koski said. “Our freshmen will fill in the gaps, some starting, some coming off the bench to complement what is already a very capable team.”

Although Gonzalez said everyone on the team is starting to fall into their roles, he said there is always room for improvement.

“I think we have made progress as a team, but we still have some work to do, naturally, given we’ve only been together for a little over three weeks,” he said. “We should be competitive and it is our goal to make the Patriot League playoffs and compete for a championship.”

The Hawks will take on Cornell University on Monday at Ulrich Sports Complex at 7 p.m.

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