Fifth-year midfielder Stevo Bednarsky plays in non-conference game against Vermont. The Mountain Hawks hope to make it into the Patriot League Championship after not qualifying last year. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Men’s soccer will depend on “leadership by committee” in 2021 season


 With seven seniors and three fifth-years, Lehigh men’s soccer will rely on its veteran depth this season as they attempt to make another run at the Patriot League Championship. 

The Mountain Hawks defeated Lafayette in the Patriot League Championship in 2019, but they didn’t make the playoffs last season.

While they have seven freshmen, they also have seven sophomores who have yet to experience a typical Division I soccer season. 

Fifth-year midfielder Stevo Bednarsky said there will be a large focus on the older players helping integrate the younger ones. 

“This year is going to be leadership by committee,” Bednarsky said. “We have a large group of guys that know their way around the field and around Lehigh.”

Senior forward Michael Tahiru attested to a team culture that fosters quick learning and group leadership. 

“Everyone on our team is encouraged to be a leader,” Tahiru said.

Associate Head Coach Ryan Hess said the team’s ability to prepare themselves this season has been better. 

Lehigh had a typical preseason in 2021, something they missed out on in 2020 due to fall sports being canceled.  

 “It was important to reset ourselves and make sure that the guys had a good summer,” Hess said. “They didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare for the spring given that there weren’t as many opportunities to play together last winter.” 

Tahiru said the certainty of looking forward to a full season has been an inspiring force for the team leading up to competition.

Although going 2-4 was not the plan in the spring, Lehigh returns eighteen players who won the Patriot League title back in 2019.

“If we can all keep [winning a Patriot League Championship]as a daily objective, then good things should come,” Bednarsky said. 

A Patriot League poll, conducted by the league office, had Lehigh ranked fifth in the conference behind Loyola University (Maryland), American, Lafayette and Navy.

While polls can be important in recognizing teams in the league, Hess said that the coaching staff does not spend time looking over them with the team. 

“It’s really not important at this stage to compare ourselves to others,” Hess said.  “Aside from that, we know that the league is going to be arguably more talented and deeper than it’s been in quite a long time.  I think they’re motivated on the heels of the spring, regardless of where we are picked.”

Lehigh dropped their first three non-conference games against Manhattan (1-0), Vermont (3-0) and Pitt (2-1). 

 They are scheduled to play at Rutgers on Sept. 10 and begin Patriot League competition against Loyola University (Maryland) on Sept. 18.

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