BOSTON – Lehigh women's soccer's run towards a championship fell just short as Boston University scored the game's only goal in the 73rd minute to down the Mountain Hawks, 1-0, in the Patriot League Title Game on Sunday. After the goal, the Mountain Hawks responded with five shots and five corner kicks over the final 16+ minutes in a valiant effort that fell just short.
In the end, Lehigh reached the championship game for the first time since 2010, becoming the first team to play in the quarterfinal round to ever advance to the title game. The Mountain Hawks' two Patriot League Tournament victories are tied for the most wins in a single postseason in school history. Lehigh was the first team that wasn't a No. 1 or 2 seed to advance to the championship game since 2011.
"The first half wasn't great. I thought they dictated play, but I thought in the second half, we were much better, especially late in the game," said Lehigh head coach Eric Lambinus. "We reacted to the goal really well. It's just tough to play as many games as we did away from home, but I'm really proud of the effort they gave, the type of soccer they played, the fight, the toughness and everything they did.
The Terriers recorded the game's first seven shots, but just one was on goal. The Mountain Hawks began finding their stride in the middle stages of the stanza, recording three consecutive shots, including their first shot on goal, off the foot of senior Clare Severe in the 26th minute.
Boston University ended the half with five of the final six shots, which saw junior Sam Miller make her second and third saves of the half, to keep the game scoreless following 45 minutes.
The Terriers went on to record the first seven shots of the second half, with Miller stopping three of them. However, it was their next shot that would find the back of the net at the 72:36 mark as Anna Heilferty headed home a cross to give the Terriers a 1-0 lead.
That shot would prove to be Boston University's final of the game, as Lehigh immediately turned the tides. Less than 20 seconds after the score, the Mountain Hawks got deep into the box and fired two shots, both of which were clocked. In the end, Lehigh ended up with the game's final five shots looking to pull closer, while creating five corners as well. Three of those corner kicks came in the final minute, but the Mountain Hawks were unable to put home the equalizer.
"It's an odd thing to say, but even in the first half, I thought the game needed a goal," said Lambinus. "I thought if they scored or we scored, it would open up and it would help up a little bit. Once a goal happened, I thought we'd react really well and we did. We played some really good soccer and we got aggressive."
Final shots were 20-10 in favor of Boston University. Lehigh held a 7-0 edge in second-half corner kicks to take an 8-5 lead for the game. Miller finished with six saves while Amanda Fay made three for the Terriers.
The Mountain Hawks lose a small senior class heading into next season, but it was an impactful class that helped the program make important strides.
"The seniors have made such an impact on our culture; they're just great kids," said Lambinus. "They impacted us more than just soccer… but they have also impacted soccer a lot. Our GPA has gone up, their work rate is strong and they lead by example. They take care of all the little things. From their freshman year to their senior, we've grown so much from not making the postseason, to tough losses in the tournament, to two good wins in the tournament and taking steps. They've done so much and I'm really proud of their commitment to our program and all they have done."
Following the game, the All-Tournament Team was announced, featuring three from the Mountain Hawks: senior Sabrina Mertz (game-winning goal in the 90th minute in the semifinals vs. Colgate), junior Kayla Arestivo (game-winning goal in the 110th minute in the quarterfinals at Bucknell) and sophomore Ally Friedman (first-half goal at Bucknell and strong defense at center back).
Like Lehigh Women's Soccer on Facebook, follow on Twitter and Instagram for continued updates on the Mountain Hawks.
Anna Heilferty, Boston University (MVP)
Chelsea Churchill, Boston University
McKenna Kennedy, Boston University
Shannon Keefe, Boston University
Kayla Arestivo, Lehigh
Ally Friedman, Lehigh
Sabrina Mertz, Lehigh
Adrienne Vaughn, Colgate
Ruby Diodati, Colgate
Sydney Witham, Army West Point
Erynn Johns, Army West Point