The Lehigh men’s soccer team huddles before a game on Goodman Campus. The team has added seven new freshmen this year. (Courtesy Lehigh Athletics)

Lehigh men’s soccer freshman make immediate impact

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For freshman midfielder Ben Bates, the journey to collegiate men’s soccer began during a big game at his hometown tournament in Sarasota, Florida. During the tournament, a trainer who knew Bates pulled aside Lehigh men’s soccer coach Dean Koski and encouraged him to watch Bates play.

“I guess I played well and that was that,” Bates said. “My mom went here so it was an easy decision. I knew about Lehigh.”

Bates isn’t the only freshman player to show promise for the Lehigh men’s soccer team. Forward Donovan Perayeff and midfielder Alex Greene both netted their first goals to propel the team to a 3-0 win against Fairleigh Dickinson University in the season opener.

For defenseman Calum Bishop, the process was a bit different. He began reaching out to coaches in high school and tried to gauge a level of interest.

“I came and visited the campus and right away Lehigh had the kind of coaching staff that made me feel most comfortable,” Bishop said.

After Bishop visited, Lehigh was his No. 1 choice. Once he received his offer, he said it was an easy decision for him to attend. He was also impressed by the team’s blend of on- and off-the-field success.

“You’ve got all of the resources you need to be successful in the classroom and also the business program is what I am enrolled in, so that was pretty attractive to me as well,” Bishop said.

Defenseman Oscar Greene said it was the attitudes of Lehigh’s players that influenced his decision to become a Mountain Hawk.

“The players are very friendly,” he wrote in an email. “Most teams would just ignore me, a stranger, but they all welcomed me as if I were already one of them. This really made me want to be a part of the family.”

A soccer family has a dual meaning for Greene, whose twin brother Alex is also suiting up for the Mountain Hawks this season.

Senior forward Jamie Luchini emphasized the welcoming culture the team creates for potential recruits. He said players and recruits will walk around campus and eat meals together in an effort to help decide whether the recruit might fit in with the team.

Moving up to the collegiate level in soccer is a huge step, and there are many aspects of the game that become finer tuned with a higher quality of play. The ones that stood out for these freshmen in their first weeks were physicality and speed.

“Now it’s playing against men,” Bishop said, “And the speed is a lot faster.”

Bates echoed this feeling and said he was now facing players who were over 6 feet tall and 200 pounds much more regularly. He said it was hard to get used to, but that it forces the team to fight harder.

That kind of fighting spirit will be needed if the Hawks look to accomplish the goals they have set. Bates, Bishop and Luchini all said they are focused on winning the Patriot League Championship. All three also had personal goals they hoped to achieve.

“I definitely want to get stronger,” Greene said. “I am only (5 feet 5 inches tall) and 125 pounds. I want to make myself more of a threat physically in a game, especially since I play in the back.”

Bates’ personal goal was to become both bigger and faster, while Bishop hopes to become more mentally tough and continue to adjust to the college game.

The players have been at work for weeks training and practicing, and will put their skills to the test in the Sept. 13 game against the University of Delaware.

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