For the first time in 10 years, the Lehigh men’s soccer team fell to Lafayette on their home field, losing 1-0 Saturday evening at Ulrich Sports Complex.
Entering this game, Lehigh (1-5-2, 0-1-0 Patriot) had won only one of their first seven games, their first win coming from their last game at home against Sacred Heart. Lafayette (4-3-2, 1-1-0 Patriot), had lost three straight games before entering this game.
Lehigh started with three defenders in the back and utilized defensive midfielders in a 3-5-2 formation as they attempted to stop Lafayette’s offense. The Leopards’ scoring this season is led by senior forward Hale Lombard, who entered the game with six goals in eight games, leading the Patriot League.
Head coach Dean Koski said Lombard is a player who Lehigh is very familiar with at this point in his college career, and the team’s defense sought to limit his contribution.
“He certainly was on our scouting report as someone we had to pay attention to,” Koski said. “He had an assist, but I think— for the most part— we did a decent job of containing him.”
Throughout the first half, Lafayette’s speed challenged Lehigh’s defense, which was stretched out, allowing Lafayette to put up the game’s only two shots on goal.
Lafayette’s first-year forward Roy Bigeon started as the team’s only striker, using his speed to push the pace of the game forward. For the first 15 minutes, Lafayette controlled possession and forced Lehigh to focus more resources at the back.
Lurking out on the right wing just past the Lehigh sideline in the 15th minute, Lombard received a pass he whipped into the box. Sitting at the near post was junior Lawrence Aydlett, who let the ball land on his left foot for a first-touch finish that beat Lehigh’s junior goalie Ryan Gross to give Lafayette a 1-0 lead.
The second half started out with Lehigh holding possession in the Lafayette half for most of the first 10 minutes. The team made the decision to adjust their formation, switching one of their midfielders forward and establishing a 3-4-3.
Senior midfielder and team captain Beckett Wenger credited the tactical change with helping the team create more chances.
“We had a few different positional players just moving around the field,” Wenger said. “I think that really opened up space for us to get forward in the attack.”
Lehigh got their first scoring chance of the second half when first-year defender Landon Bealer landed a shot in the lower left corner, which was deflected off of Lafayette’s goalie, junior Griffin Huff.
Seconds later, Huff got another save on a shot in a similar location from Lehigh’s sophomore midfielder Yusef Gueye.
For most of the second half, Lehigh kept Lafayette away from creating dangerous scoring chances. The Leopards were limited to only one shot on goal in the second half.
With 13 minutes left in the second half, a foul just a few yards outside of the box gave Lehigh a free-kick opportunity. The shot by first-year defender Trey Sheeler went just inches over the net.
As the second half winded down, the weather conditions continued to worsen as heavy rain slowed the ball down on the turf field.
In the 88th minute, Lehigh had one last chance off of a corner kick. After Lafayette cleared the ball out of the box, Gross handled the ball well outside of the box and received a red card.
Gross, who started the season as Lehigh’s backup, will be suspended for the next game as a result of receiving the red card.
This red card forced Lehigh to put sophomore Tommy Chyzowych in the net for the last few minutes as Lafayette closed out their victory.
“I think we hurt ourselves more than they hurt us,” Gross said. “We just kind of turned off a bit.”