Lehigh tops Rutgers, 1-0 behind Adams' tally

October 29, 2019

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — It only took a lucky header off of sophomore midfielder Patrick Adams in the 72nd minute for the Lehigh men's soccer team to top Big Ten foe Rutgers, 1-0 Tuesday night at the Ulrich Sports Complex. The victory ups the gives the Mountain Hawks (10-4-2) their first 10 or more win season since 2017 and a win in the final non-league contest of the 2019 season before the final two Patriot League games before the tournament.
The Scarlet Knights (7-6-3) dominated the offensive side of the ball for almost the entirety of the contest, out-shooting Lehigh, 23-8 with 11 first half shots and 12 in the second half. Of those 23 chances for Rutgers were seven shots on goal, which resulted in seven saves for senior goalkeeper Will Smith, who registered his eighth shutout of the 2019 campaign and the 23rd of his outstanding career, putting him fifth all-time in Patriot League and just three shy of the program record 26 set by Ryan Grzeszczak (1999-02). In addition, Smith currently has a shutout streak of four straight games, 380:00 straight minutes without allowing a goal.
The Mountain Hawks tallied just two shots in the first half, a header shot from Tyler Dressman that went wide in the 17th minute and a wide look from Blaise Milanek in the 39th minute to close out the first stanza.
"I don't think we started off on our front foot," said head coach Dean Koski. "We were a little bit slow and tired tonight, I know an overtime game against Lafayette on Saturday night got us a little heavy-legged, so we wanted to make sure we managed the minutes of a lot of guys and I think the consequence of that is that we were lethargic in the first half."
The Scarlet Knights continued to take control to open the second half with the first seven shots taken in the half, between the 46th and 62nd minutes, but three of those shots were saved by Smith to keep the contest scoreless.
The Mountain Hawks made a wave substitution in the 63rd minute that saw eight fresh bodies get into the game for eight players, which proved to be the difference maker in the outcome of the game in the end.
"It's less than ideal for us to sub seven or eight players at a time," said Koski. "We don't typically like to do that because it does disrupt the flow of the game, but we have to do what's best for Lehigh and what's best for our team.
"I think for our subs to come on and give us that lift, especially those guys who haven't played a lot of minutes was important because we've talked all year about the importance of our bench and we're going to need to have depth when we get into the tournament. The more experience guys get in games like this, I think the better prepared we are when we have to go to the bench then."
After freshman Jack Sarkos provided looks on two separate chances with a shot on goal that was saved in the 66th minute and a blocked shot in the 71st, it was the sophomore Adams who came through when the team and the offense needed him most.
In the 72nd minute, after a corner kick from Michael Tahiru, Adams used his head (more specifically his ear) to knock the ball in the goal after a deflection of a Rutgers defender to score the first goal of his career, which ended up also being the first game-winning tally of his career as well. It was a wacky play that originally looked like an own goal on the Rutgers defense, but it was Adams who was credited with the score to give the Mountain Hawks an impressive midweek victory over a strong Big Ten opponent.

"I'm happy for Patrick," Koski said. "He did a good job of coming in for Trevor (Koski) and I know that he is going to do whatever it takes for the team to win."
The assist is also Tahiru's third of the season and his first since at Penn on Sept. 24.
The Mountain Hawks ended up having three more quiet chances to score, especially when Ikem Mbalewe's shot was saved in the 82nd minute by the Scarlet Knights' keeper.
Only one of Lehigh's starters tallied a shot (Dressman), while substitutes Sarkos and Mbalewe each had two shots, while Milanek and Meredith had a shot each followed by the game-winner from Adams.
The win decreases Rutgers' lead in the all-time series to 26-22-4, while the Mountain Hawks are now victorious in three straight meetings against the Scarlet Knights dating back to Sept. 14, 2007.
The Lehigh defense, coupled by spectacular goalkeeping from Will Smith, gave the Mountain Hawks the victory with incredible momentum heading into the next two contests at Holy Cross on Saturday and against Bucknell next Wednesday at home for Senior Night.
A win over the Crusaders would solidify Lehigh's chances at a top two seed in the tournament, while two more wins would guarantee the Mountain Hawks' first Patriot League Regular Season Championship since the 2006 season.
"We know we have to set our sights on Holy Cross and that game up there," said Koski. "They have not had their best season, but I have great respect for the coaching staff up there and they're going to have that team ready. They know it's an important Patriot League game for us and so they're not going to let up.
"We have to be prepared for a tough opponent up there, so everything we do the next three days is going to hopefully prepare us for that."
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