The Lehigh men’s soccer team is undefeated in the Patriot League (6-0-2) with an overall record of 11-4-2 after a 2-1 overtime victory against Holy Cross on Saturday. The Mountain Hawks will play Bucknell on Nov. 6 before the Patriot League Tournament.
Although Lehigh fell behind the Crusaders in the 68th minute of regulation, the team quickly bounced back, tying the score in the 82nd minute with a goal from junior midfielder Trevor Koski. In overtime, sophomore forward Josh Luchini scored the game-winning goal to secure Lehigh’s place atop the Patriot League standings.
The Mountain Hawks already surpassed last season’s record of 9-8-2, and the team hopes to exceed its tournament run from last season’s playoffs, which resulted in a 2-1 loss to Colgate in the semifinals.
Lehigh refuses to let history repeat itself.
“The whole season, it’s been the Patriot League title or bust,” said freshman midfielder and forward Natan Rosen. “Anything less than that for us would be a disappointment.”
Junior defender Tyler Dressman said playing the semifinal game at Ulrich Sports Complex will be a huge advantage for the Mountain Hawks, especially since the team is undefeated at home this season.
Coach Dean Koski said he feels confident in the team’s ability to execute well, and he commends the players for their hard work ethic, consistency and positive attitudes both on and off the field all season.
“(Some) big strength(s) of this group is they’re fit, they work hard and, overall, their collective spirit,” associate head coach Ryan Hess said. “They really support each other well, and they care a great deal about one another, and I think that shows in the way that we play…for us, it’s just about being a better version of us.”
Hess said it was the energy and camaraderie demonstrated by the substitutes that helped the Mountain Hawks capitalize on a 1-0 victory over Big Ten opponent Rutgers on Oct. 29. Sophomore midfielder Patrick Adams redirected a header to the back of the net in the 72nd minute of the game.
Dressman said senior captain and goalkeeper Will Smith has served as the anchor of the team this season, consistently making impressive saves and keeping the Mountain Hawks in every game.
The leadership of Smith, alongside senior defender co-captain Zarin Tuten and junior midfielder and defender co-captain Stevo Bednarsky, has proved to be a major reason for the team’s success this season, Hess said.
“Your seniors and your leaders become crucial at this stage of the season,” Hess said. “Will (Smith) and Zarin (Tuten) and the other seniors, as well as, Stevo (Bednarsky), our junior captain. Those guys taking leadership roles, having been in the playoffs and having played those games, is crucial for us to have success.”
Dressman said, while the team is enjoying its current success, many of the players and coaches are also excited, because they’ve unanimously recognized a lot of improvement in the overall program and anticipate a promising future.
“A good thing is, we’re a pretty young team, and we have a lot of depth,” Dressman said. “This year, I think we have a really good chance of doing well and going far. And the following years, as well, I’d say it’s looking good. The program is definitely on an upward track.”
But despite a winning record, Rosen said the team refuses to be complacent. He said the players are striving to reach their full potential. Doing so would make Lehigh “pretty unbeatable.”
While the Patriot League Tournament sits on the horizon, Koski said the team maintains an overarching sentiment to focus on one game, practice and workout at a time.
The Mountain Hawks will host the Bucknell Bison for its Senior Night and last regular season game on Wednesday, Nov. 6, at Ulrich Stadium.