The Lehigh women’s soccer team started its season with eight straight shutouts including seven straight wins, attributing its success to how the team dynamic has changed this year.
This season, the team has seen a change in communication and mentality, which has had a positive effect on its play.
“From my freshman year to now, we’ve done a lot to change how we interact with each other and our relationships with one another, creating an open atmosphere with clear communication and constructive criticism,” senior midfielder Madeline Walsh said.
After solving issues with communications and relationships off the field, the team was able to allot more time to basic skills and doing all of the little things correctly, like passing and first touches. Coach Eric Lambinus explained that ever since the upperclassmen decided the team would have a competitive nature, everyone was more focused on being a better soccer team this year.
“We came back and were almost 100 percent in passing fitness tests, and after we all had a break over the summer, we came back with guns blazing and ready to play,” senior forward Tori Pantaleo said.
Both Pantaleo and Walsh agreed that coming back from the summer with everyone in shape freed up time for focusing on their skills as well. This new mentality entering the 2016 season, as well as how prepared everyone was coming into preseason, made for an unbelievable start to the season.
Lambinus said one aspect of play that has stayed consistent over the past few seasons is the team’s defensive mentality and reliance on transitional play for opportunities to score. The team has never had an issue having a solid defense but has had trouble finding ways to excel on the offensive end. This year they have been able to do so.
“We were doing things that we knew how to do well as we’re a very defensive team, so we focused on keeping that alive but also focused on the opportunities we could encounter when spending more time on offense,” Walsh said.
Pantaleo said freshman goalkeeper Sam Miller is an incredible person and she embodies what everyone wants the soccer team to be. She really looks out for everyone on the team and is always looking to make each player better at their position, she said.
Walsh said the team began to lose focus as the news of the streak started gain a lot of attention. As a result of the lack of focus, the team lost to Colgate 3-2 in overtime, ending its streak.
“The Colgate game was just difficult,” Lambinus said. “We did everything we wanted to do and after taking a lead late in the game, we learned that the game isn’t over until the game is actually over.”
Pantaleo said she was not necessarily upset after the loss because the team needed to learn how to lose a game. She knew they would lose eventually, so she wanted everyone to learn how to react and bounce back.
The team faced Navy the following Wednesday and had its first shutout against as the Mountain Hawks lost 3-0 on their home field.
“I honestly couldn’t tell you what happened that game,” Walsh said. “We just didn’t show up to play that day and they showed us what they were.”
However, Lehigh bounced back from its two losses with a 1-0 win over Army West Point on Saturday.
“I knew we were going to win the game against Army when we walked from our locker room to the field, and we felt the atmosphere and the concentration,” Pantaleo said. “There was a complete change in mentality from the start. People were just focused, and I haven’t seen focus like that in a while.”
Lambinus agreed in saying the team came out with a great mentality and continued it through the second half to get the win. The team still knows it can improve in a few aspects in order to face the second half of its Patriot League games.
The Mountain Hawks will begin their Patriot League schedule against Loyola on Saturday in Maryland.