After competing in the Patriot League Championship game last fall, the Lehigh women’s soccer team has yet to clinch a victory in the first six games of its 2019 campaign.
The Mountain Hawks’ 0-2-4 record doesn’t reflect its performances.
Lehigh has gone to overtime in its past five games. The defense has continued to impress, posting its second defensive clean sheet in a row — and third of the season — on Sunday. And while the team struggled to capitalize on the offensive end it created the opportunities.
The Mountain Hawks headed to double overtime against Temple University for its fourth straight game of the season on Thursday, Sept. 5. The team applied pressure with 17 shots, nine of which were on goal, but ultimately fell short in finding the back of the net.
Although the team didn’t come out with its first win of the season, junior midfielder Lisa Kestelboym said the Mountain Hawks’ performance across the board was not lacking.
“It was definitely frustrating to have outplayed a team,” Kestelboym said. “It feels like we’ve been dominating the games, especially against Temple. It was the best soccer that we’ve played in a game all season, and it’s like that final moment just isn’t coming through for us.”
Just three days later, the team played in its fifth consecutive double overtime at Fordham on Sunday, Sept. 8, and walked away with its second straight scoreless draw. Lehigh doubled Fordham in shots taken (20-10), but couldn’t capitalize.
Associate Head Coach Lauren Calabrese said this early adversity is completely normal.
“As a coaching staff, we try to put an emphasis on preseason and early games with the goal of developing a rotation and chemistry between our players,” Calebrese said. “A lot of it isn’t abnormal in respect to figuring ourselves out as a group and as a collective. We know what our strengths and talents are, and I think putting the ball in the back of the net is the end of that process.”
Like Kestelboym, senior midfielder Annika Jansa said the team’s early offensive-end struggles cannot be attributed to sub-par performances on the field. The opportunities for finishing are there, but the team’s lack of confidence is acting as a barricade. She said a confident mindset will translate into the final scores for which the team searches.
She said the team is creating so many chances and great opportunities, and should be finishing them.
“We haven’t been capitalizing on them, and I think one thing that we definitely need to work on is getting our confidence up and knowing that if we miss the first shot, we can bury the second,” Jansa said. “Once one goal comes, we’ll get into our groove, and hopefully more will follow.”
From the coaching staff to the roster, the Mountain Hawks are working as a cohesive unit to grab their first victory. The team is experimenting with different formations to figure out what works best against its opponents. In the first four games of the season, Lehigh played in a 4-5-1 formation, but changed to a 3-5-2 against Temple and Fordham.
Calabrese said the coaching staff is looking for feedback from the players about which formation would best suit the team. Clinching that first victory, she said, will come from the players’ understanding of their roles on the field.
“It’s about asking our players to think critically about what their role is and also to think about soccer, in many ways, like a class,” Calabrese said. “Understand what your tactical responsibilities are and have discipline in executing them.”
Regardless of their record, the Mountain Hawks are committed to maintaining positivity and looking forward.
The team knows that accomplishing its goals this season will require contributions from everyone on the roster.
“At the end of the day, we all want the same thing, and there’s no room for negativity in terms of what we want,” Kestelboym said. “It’s not going to come from one person, two people — it’s going to come from a full team collectively.”
After four straight games on the road, Lehigh will play at home on Friday against UMBC at 6 p.m