The Lehigh women’s soccer team came away with a 1-0 win over American University on Friday night.
In its previous game, Lehigh (11-4-2, 5-3-1 Patriot) had managed to knock off previously unbeaten Bucknell. Friday was also senior night, and the combination of these factors led to emotions running high at the beginning of the game.
“Senior day gives people nerves and jitters and there’s a lot of excitement moving around the field,” senior forward Tori Pantaleo said.
However, despite the jitters, Lehigh dictated most of the play in the first half, allowing only one attempted shot and no goals from the Eagles. But after the first 45 minutes, the Mountain Hawks couldn’t score in the first half either despite six close shots taken the team, including a pair on goal from junior Grace Correll.
“The first half was solid – we didn’t really make that many mistakes, but we really didn’t create as much as we’d like to either,” coach Eric Lambinus said. “In the second half, we had way better urgency. We asked them: you played at 70 percent, now let’s give it 100 percent, and once that took place we started to control things.”
Lehigh finally got the ball in the net in the 74th minute with a goal by sophomore Sabrina Mertz assisted by Tori Pantaleo.
“I was really relieved just to get the goal, and it was a great assist by (Pantaleo),” Mertz said. “So I was really happy for her. Tonight was just really all about the four seniors and how much they’ve given up the last four years.”
With the win, Lehigh will be at home for its first postseason game since 2005. Lambinus said being at home for this game helps immensely. He said it’s especially helpful because having to travel for a midweek playoff game is difficult and gives the team an extra day of rest.
A big portion of Lehigh’s success this season can be attributed to the team’s four seniors, Pantaleo, Laura Courtney, Kalin Ojert and Madeline Walsh. But not single player on the current roster has ever seen action in a Patriot League Tournament game, so Tuesday will be a new experience for everyone.
“We’re going to treat it like a regular game, prepare for it the same way we have, and try to play with the same sense of urgency, yet control the emotions, and if we do that we give ourselves a good chance of being successful,” Lambinus said.
Lehigh was able to heighten the intensity against American, finishing with a 16-3 advantage in shots and 7-0 on corner kicks, and played on the attack for most of that second half. The Hawks have now won three straight games going into the tournament.
“We’ve put ourselves in the position to compete for a championship,” Lambinus said. “Our goal is to put our best performance out on Tuesday — to play our best game.”