BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Junior Bratislav Petkovic scored the equalizer in the 67th minute as the Lehigh men's soccer team picked up a 1-1 draw against Bucknell on Senior Night Wednesday, clinching the Mountain Hawks' first Patriot League regular season title and undefeated league season since 2006. With the draw, Lehigh heads into the postseason 11-4-3 overall, 6-0-3 in league play. Lehigh and Loyola tied for first in the final league standings with 21 points, but the Mountain Hawks earned the No. 1 seed due to their head-to-head win over the Greyhounds on Oct. 12.
"We were only focused on the game, trying to get three points, doing what we've been doing all season and playing the way we needed to play against a good Bucknell team," said Lehigh head coach Dean Koski. "While I don't think we were stellar, I thought we were good enough to get the goal back (the equalizer). I thought we had other good chances and good looks at goal that didn't fall our way, but getting the point and securing first place in a very, very competitive and tough league, I couldn't be happier for the team."
With tonight's 1-1 draw vs. Bucknell, @LehighMSoccer has won the @PatriotLeague Regular Season Title, its first since 2006, and first undefeated league record since that same season! Top-seeded Lehigh will host a PL Semifinal next Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. #GoLehigh #FlyTogether pic.twitter.com/6vMnilWZTC— Lehigh Sports (@LehighSports) November 7, 2019
The Bison got off to a quick start, scoring in the sixth minute as Bernie Wright dribbled in towards goal, the ball ricocheted off a defender and back to Wright in all alone on Lehigh senior goalkeeper Will Smith. He headed it past Smith to give Bucknell a 1-0 advantage.
The Mountain Hawks rebounded with eight of the next nine first-half shots, three of which were on goal. In the 21st minute, sophomore Nick Jennings played the ball into the box to classmate Josh Luchini, whose header was on target, but Bucknell goalkeeper Luke Smith made the save.
Lehigh continued the pressure early in the second half the same way the first half ended, by firing eight of the first nine shots of the stanza (giving the Mountain Hawks 16-of-18 shots after Bucknell's goal). Just over three minutes after Petkovich had a shot saved, he wouldn't be denied at the 66:18 mark. Luchini played the ball into sophomore Dawson Berger near the corner of the box, who found Petkovich near the right post. The junior redirected it past Luke Smith for the equalizer.
The Mountain Hawks pressured down the stretch, which included two shots on goal – from Luchini in the 83rd minute and an especially dangerous chance from sophomore Michael Tahiru in the 84th minute, but Luke Smith made the stops.
The overtime periods saw just two combined shots, one aside, with Will Smith making the only save.
Final shots were 20-8 in favor of Lehigh while the Mountain Hawks held a 6-2 edge in corner kicks. Will Smith finished with four saves across from his younger brother Luke in net for Bucknell, who tallied six.
Will was one of eight Lehigh seniors recognized at halftime on Senior Night, which included Luke joining him for the ceremony.
"Our senior class has had a great influence on the program," said Koski. "This senior class has had a particularly strong influence not only the program, but also on me. I'm very appreciative of the influence they've had in terms of how I coach and my coaching style. They've encouraged me to look at things differently and I have. This has been a hugely influential class on the program."
For a second straight season, the Mountain Hawks have earned a bye in the Patriot League Tournament and will host a Patriot League Semifinal contest next Tuesday evening (Nov. 12) at 6 p.m. Lehigh will learn its opponent following Saturday's quarterfinal round.
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