BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Attempting to repeat as Patriot League Champions, the Lehigh men's soccer team is ready to get the 2021 season started as the league revealed its preseason awards for the upcoming campaign, announced Monday morning.
The Mountain Hawks were picked first with 17 first place votes, while junior forward Josh Luchini and senior midfielder Stevo Bednarsky were named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and Preseason Midfielder of the Year, respectively. Junior defender Nick Jennings joins Luchini and Bednarsky on the Preseason All-Patriot League team for the year.
Luchini had himself one whale of a sophomore season, finishing as the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, a First Team All-Patriot League selection, a First Team All-Atlantic Region selection and a Third Team All-American. The Wexford, Pa. native scored 11 goals with a pair of assists for 24 points in 2019 and has scored 17 goals with six assists for 40 points in two seasons with the Mountain Hawks.
After a season that captivated many Division I college soccer enthusiasts and media members, Luchini has many eyes right on top of him as he starts his third season on South Mountain. He was selected to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List ahead of the upcoming year as well as Top Drawer Soccer's Preseason Best XI Second Team. With two more seasons at Lehigh, Luchini has an opportunity to build upon his great 2019 success.
Luchini is Lehigh's first Preseason Offensive Player of the Year since Mark Forrest ahead of the 2018 season and the third since Kyle Evans in 2008.
Bednarsky is arguably one of the top reasons Lehigh captured its third Patriot League title in program history in 2019 and was recognized as the league's Preseason Midfielder of the Year prior to spring 2021. The two-time All-Patriot League selection and First Teamer in 2019 scored a pair of goals with an assist and was a Second Team All-Atlantic Region selection by the United Soccer Coaches as well.
The captain was one of four members of the team to receive All-Tournament Team recognition when the Mountain Hawks defeated archrival Lafayette in the title game to move on to the NCAA Tournament. He made 20 starts last season and had five shots on goal for SOG% of 38.5 percent.
"I am not surprised that Josh and Stevo were selected as preseason Players of the Year given their success in 2019 and I am sure they are humbled that others think that highly of them," said head coach Dean Koski. "Knowing them as well as I do, they will see this acknowledgement as motivation to work harder and be better at everything they do.
"As well, seeing Nick selected to the preseason all-league team is great and like his teammates, this will inspire him to achieve even more."
Jennings made his debut as a Third Team All-Patriot League defender in 2019 and will continue to grow as an important member of the back-line in 2021 and beyond. He tallied five points during his sophomore season with three assists and a goal, including a game-winning PK in a 1-0 home victory over Loyola on Oct. 12, 2019.
The Lehigh defense will surely miss graduated standout Zarin Tuten, who was a First Team All-Patriot League selection in 2019 and the key member of the back-line that collected 19 shutouts over the last two seasons. Jennings, along with seniors Tyler Dressman and Blaise Milanek and sophomore Andrew White will look to continue the trend this season.
With 17 first place votes and 161 total points, the Mountain Hawks are far-and-away the preseason favorites heading into Spring 2021. Navy comes into the season picked second with two first place votes, while Loyola was picked third with a single first place vote. With four teams making the Patriot League Tournament field this year, as opposed to the typical six, Colgate rounds out the top four with 122 points.
"We are humbled to be picked first in the preseason poll, but we also know it will make us the team to chase," Koski said. "Nonetheless, we have to embrace the challenge and do our best to live up to this distinction because we have such high regard for every team and coach in this league.
"This might be our most challenging season in many years due to the brevity of league play and the intensity that will be needed for every match."
Lehigh will begin the six-game regular season on March 6, taking on American in Washington D.C. The Mountain Hawks return home to the Ulrich Sports Complex on March 13 against Army West Point for the first time since claiming the Patriot League crown against Lafayette on November 16, 2019.
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2020-21 Patriot League Men's Soccer Preseason All-League Team
Drew Fischer, Colgate, So., F
Josh Luchini, Lehigh, Jr., F
Jacob Williams, Navy, Jr., F
Matthew Thorsheim, Bucknell, Sr., M
Stevo Bednarsky, Lehigh, Sr., M
Justin Ingram, Loyola Maryland, Sr., M
Will Stroud, Colgate, Jr., D
Nick Jennings, Lehigh, Jr., D
Jonathan Sousa, Loyola Maryland, Gr., D
Matt Nocita, Navy, Jr., D
Chase Vosvick, Loyola Maryland, Sr., GK
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Josh Luchini, Lehigh, Jr., F
Preseason Midfielder of the Year: Stevo Bednarsky, Lehigh, Sr., M
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Matt Nocita, Navy, Jr., D
2020-21 Patriot League Men's Soccer Preseason Poll
Lehigh – 161 (17 first-place votes)
Navy – 133 (2)
Loyola – 124 (1)
Colgate – 122
Lafayette – 97
Bucknell – 76
Army West Point – 75
Boston University – 51
American – 42
Holy Cross – 22