Freshman men's soccer goalkeeper Blake Koski dives for the ball during a practice on Sept. 10. Koski is one of several student-athletes players who decided to stay in the Lehigh Valley and play for Lehigh. (Courtesy of Blake Koski)

Some Lehigh student-athletes play right in their backyard

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Students-athletes from all over the country have made their way to Lehigh for the fall semester.

Despite the cancellation of the fall season, some athletes have come to Bethlehem to study and prepare for their return to competition. However, for some student-athletes attending Lehigh, this fight against the pandemic and transition to a new life is happening in their backyard.

Lehigh Valley natives Blake Koski, ’24, Erica Steele, ’24, and Dawson Berger, ‘22, did not hesitate when presented the opportunity to compete for the Mountain Hawks.

Koski, a freshman on the soccer team and son of Lehigh men’s soccer head coach Dean Koski, was a standout goalkeeper at Liberty High School. During his senior campaign in high school, he recorded eight shutouts while in goal on his way to being named all-state and East Penn Conference MVP. 

Koski will join his older brothers Spencer, ’23, and Trevor, ’21, on the team, while their oldest brother, Alec, ‘20 ‘21G, was recently named Lehigh men’s soccer director of operations. Lehigh men’s soccer had a winning record for the last three seasons and captured the 2019 Patriot League Championship. After watching the success and culture his family has been an integral part of fostering, Koski knew Lehigh was where he wanted to be.

“I grew up immersed in the Lehigh soccer program and looking up to the guys on the team, so I always wanted to go here,” Koski said. “I expanded my horizons a little bit as I got older, but, in the end, Lehigh was always my top choice.” 

Berger attended Parkland High School in Allentown, where he served as a team captain on the men’s soccer team and was a two-time District 11 champion.

“I chose to stay at Lehigh because of my family,” Berger said. “Being close to them was a high priority for my school selection. I wanted to be able to see them as frequently as  I wanted and vice versa. On top of that, Lehigh was always high on my list for where I wanted to go. To me, it was a perfect fit.”

Steele, a freshman on the field hockey team, also attended Parkland High School, where she was a four-year starter and two-time captain of Parkland’s field hockey team. Both of Steele’s parents attended Lehigh, giving her a natural connection to the school. 

This, along with the proximity to campus, allowed her to gain familiarity with the day-to-day operations at Lehigh and get a feel for the team. 

“A few of the reasons I chose Lehigh are because both of my parents went here, so I have been coming to campus since I was really little,” Steele said. “It always felt like a second home to me. I love the school pride, and I was always so happy here.”

Steele was a member of the National Honor Society while at Parkland and will bring a strong leadership presence to a team that features just 10 upperclassmen.

The wide range of academic opportunities and respected athletic programs fueled Steele’s desire to attend Lehigh.

“Lehigh has a really good academic program, especially for their business students, which is what I wanted to major in,” Steele said. “They provide so many opportunities for students and make sure everyone will be successful in the future.” 

While athletes are held to tight restrictions given the pandemic, it is especially difficult for freshmen.  

“I would have to say the hardest part about coming to college during the pandemic is branching out to meet a lot of new people,” Steele said. “With the limitation on how many people can be in one spot together, it was harder to meet and hang out with new classmates.”

Despite these limitations, Berger, Koski and Steele are looking forward to getting back on the field.

 Lehigh has a long-standing tradition of success among local student-athletes, and this talented trio will look to continue the trend.

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