In 2015, the Lehigh men’s soccer team defeated American University 2-1 to break a 15-year Patriot League Championship drought.
Winning a championship takes talent, yes. But head coach Dean Koski said what made his team so successful was that they were considered the underdogs heading into the Patriot League tournament with a 4-3-2 conference record.
“We weren’t exactly the favorites,” said Ben Bates, a freshman midfielder on the 2015 championship-winning team. “But we knew on any day we could play with the best team and that really motivated us.”
After beating Bucknell 2-0 in the quarterfinals and Colgate 2-0 in the semifinals, it all came down to one final game.
Fourth-seeded Lehigh competed in the championship game against third-seeded American. Senior forward Jamie Luchini started on a high note when he scored the first goal of the game 30 minutes into the first half on an assist from freshman forward Mark Forrest.
Luchini said his favorite memory of the tournament was his second goal of the game against American that put the Mountain Hawks ahead 2-1, which came just one minute after an American goal that had tied the score.
“We felt a sigh of relief like, ‘Oh thank goodness, we got the lead back,’” Luchini said.
Koski still remembers Luchini’s performance.
“Jamie Luchini was the MVP of that tournament,” Koski said. “He became one of the best-attacking players in the league the second half of the season. He scored both goals in the championship against American, and he really started to come into himself.”
Bates said an important factor in their success was that everyone was determined, especially the seniors.
“I remember the seniors on the team that year just being some of the most driven people that I’ve ever met,” Bates said. “I just think that kind of mentality radiated throughout the team. They were some of the hardest workers I have ever met.”
While Bates transferred after his first year to move closer to home, he said the level of focus the coaches instilled in him is something that he continues to carry with him.
Luchini said the only thing he regrets was that as a senior, he couldn’t defend the championship. While Jamie Luchini won’t be winning another Patriot League Championship, another Luchini already has.
Junior forward Josh Luchini, Jamie’s brother, was part of the 2019 Patriot League victory when the team defeated Lafayette 1-0.
Five years after the 2015 championship, the team still talks about the importance of ending the program’s 15-year drought.
“Anytime you win a championship, it’s special,” Koski said. “Everyone bought in. When you have buy-in, and you have everybody working for one another and playing for one another, it lends itself to have a successful season. I think it was a little unexpected, which is what made it special.”
Now, Koski hopes to secure a back-to-back title following the 2019 championship whenever they can get back on the field and have a season.