BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Everything the Lehigh men's soccer team has worked for throughout the season led all the way to this moment, as the Mountain Hawks are set to host archrival Lafayette for the Patriot League Championship Saturday night at 6 p.m. at the Ulrich Sports Complex. A win would give Lehigh its third league title in program history and vault them into the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time.
The Mountain Hawks have had an incredibly successful season all the way up to this point, with an overall record of 12-4-3, the team's most wins in a single season since the 2015 season when they went 13-6-3 and won the second Patriot League title in program history. In addition to a 12-win season to this point, the Mountain Hawks claimed the Regular Season title for just the second time and the first time since 2006 with an undefeated 6-0-3 record in league play.
In the Patriot League semifinals on Tuesday at home, Lehigh used a great goal from junior midfielder Trevor Koski in the 76th minute to come away with a 1-0 victory over Bucknell and advance to its ninth title game in program history and for the first time since 2015. It was Koski's fifth goal of the season and his third game-winner to date.
Lehigh will face Lafayette in the Patriot League Championship game for just the third time in program history. In 1998 and 2003, the Leopards took the victory, but in 2000, the Mountain Hawks drew even with Lafayette and won on penalty kicks.
The Mountain Hawks have scored 24 times this season, averaging 1.26 goals per game on 239 total shots, averaging 12.6 per game. 16 of those 24 goals have been scored by Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year Josh Luchini (11) and Koski (5), while Michael Tahiru and Stevo Bednarsky have each added two a piece with four other players earning a tally.
In net, Lehigh will rely heavily on Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year, senior Will Smith, who's nine shutouts rank second in the league this season and seventh in the nation. Smith has a .852 save percentage, ranked first in the league and third in the nation, as well as a 0.69 GAA, which ranks third in the league and is in the Top 20 in the nation. His 75 saves lead all Patriot League keepers.
Lehigh's success this season has been largely associated with the team's ability to create great scoring chances, while remaining dominant on the defensive side of the ball. The Mountain Hawks have shut out 18 of their last 38 opponents dating back to last season. The defense can be attributed to the outstanding play and leadership of senior center-back Zarin Tuten, who was named a First Team All-Patriot League selection for his efforts. This is the second straight season Tuten has earned All-League honors.
Lafayette comes into the matchup looking for its league-tying record eighth championship and first since the 2012 season. While the Leopards have been excellent at home this season with a mark of 7-1-2, they have struggled away from Oaks Stadium with a record of 2-5-3. The fourth-seeded Lafayette team took down No. 2 Loyola on Tuesday by drawing 0-0 and advancing 5-4 on penalty kicks in Baltimore.
Both Ryan Goncalves and Sebastian Varela lead the team in goals this season with six each, while Hale Lombard and Yiannis Panyides have tallied four goals each. James Gibson has six assists so far this season, while Marcos Kitromilides has been the team's leader in shots with 36, while registering 11 points on three goals and five assists.
Sophomore Alex Sutton has been an excellent option in net for the Leopards this season with a GAA of 0.94 and a save percentage of .795. He's made 70 saves and has nine shutouts, making him a strong counterpart for Will Smith on Saturday night.
Saturday night's title game matchup will be streamed live over-the-air (OTA) on the Patriot League Network and Stadium with coverage set for 6 p.m.
Tickets for the first 300 Lehigh students in attendance are FREE (at the gate with a valid student ID) and are $5 for adults and $3 for children, seniors and for students after the first 300. Purchase them here or by calling the office at 610-758-4263.
Students can get to the game via the Campus Connector. Visit bus.lehigh.edu for shuttle times and information.
Like Lehigh Men's Soccer on Facebook, follow on Twitter and Instagram for continued updates on the Mountain Hawks.
Tickets for tomorrow's Patriot League Championship game vs. Lafayette at the Ulrich Sports Complex are free to the first 300 Lehigh students (with an ID) who attend! Make sure you secure your spot to witness the Mountain Hawks go for their third league title. #GoLehigh pic.twitter.com/bvnapK5XpO— z-Lehigh Men's Soccer (@LehighMSoccer) November 15, 2019