Freshman midfielder Jessica Sacco fights her way down the field against Monmouth senior defense Cara Poole in the game on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. Lehigh tied Monmouth 2-2 in double overtime. (Erik Thomas/B&W Photo)

Mertz, Severe highlight Lehigh women’s soccer freshmen class

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Adjusting to college life is a challenge on its own before considering a commitment to Division I athletics. While the Lehigh women’s soccer freshmen may be new to the team, they are off to a good start simultaneously acclimating to both.

“It’s been so awesome,” midfielder Sabrina Mertz said. “Everyone’s been so welcoming, especially the older girls.”

She said the team has a very powerful bond both on and off the field, leading to much of its success. Mertz leads the team in points with 14, scoring six goals in just seven games.

“It’s a great group of girls to get involved with, especially first semester,” goalie Lidia Breen said. “I think it made the transition into college a little easier for me because we came in a month before school and we had a group of 26 girls who we were friends with already.”

Midfielder Ava Roth and defensive midfielder Clare Severe both agreed, saying the older team members serve as role models for them academically, socially and with soccer. Severe is tied for third on the team with five points (one goal, three assists).

“Pretty much all the upperclassmen are leaders, not just the captains on the team, and we can go to them for advice with anything, whether that be school or soccer,” Roth said.

These women had somewhat similar recruitment processes, which began on their club soccer teams during their sophomore through senior years of high school.

Mertz started her recruiting process at the end of her sophomore year of high school. Her club soccer team participated in various tournaments and showcases that recruiting coaches attended. Through this, she was able to get in touch with Lehigh’s soccer coach Eric Lambinus, she said.

Mertz is from Orefield, Pennsylvania, which is only a short distance away from Lehigh. That is one of the factors that went into her decision to play soccer for Lehigh.

“I like that I am close enough to home, and my parents can see most of my games,” she said. “I also love the campus, and the engineering school is very strong.”

Clare Severe was a bit more unsure about where she wanted to attend school, but ended up committing to Lehigh in September of her senior year.

As new members of the soccer team, the new Mountain Hawks identified some noticeable differences between high school and collegiate soccer.

“One challenge is adjusting to the level of play,” Mertz said. “You’re coming onto a team where all the girls are at that next level and all the girls work hard.”

Breen said the game is played at a much faster pace. She had to adjust by speeding up her game to always keep alert and be ready to make saves.

Being on a college sports team also helps the players master the skills of time management. Since soccer takes up about four hours each day for six days a week, it is crucial for these athletes to achieve a balance between academics and soccer.

“If I have four hours in between classes, I’ll go to the library and read ahead (for classes),” Breen said.

Severe said it has been a tough transition in terms of time management, since college requires more work than she is used to.

Over the next four years, the freshmen on the women’s soccer team hope to thrive as individuals and as a team.

“I think I have a lot of room to grow and that’s something I’m looking forward to, (seeing) how far I can go and how I can get better,” Breen said.

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