BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Playing a man down for the final 40 minutes of the contest, the Lehigh men's soccer team fought valiantly in the second half, but two late goals for Navy proved too much, as the Midshipmen (4-0-0, 2-0-0 PL South) defeated the Mountain Hawks (1-3-0, 1-3-0 PL South) Saturday night on Senior Night at the Ulrich Sports Complex.
"I thought we played some of our best soccer when we went down a man tonight," said head coach Dean Koski. "Down a man and down Stevo Bednarsky, we were thin and our guys stepped up and really brought it late. I don't know what inspired them, but if we can capture that enthusiasm, passion, that fervor and commitment with 11 guys on the field and all of our best players, then we can be a really good team.
"So everything we've been doing this spring and have been experiencing is about development and who might be ready to play next fall. So we've been looking at all of these games about how we can continue to grow as a team. We haven't wasted this spring. We've learned a lot, we've made mistakes and we've done some really good things, but we haven't put it all together. Our goal is to be able to put a 90 minute game together like we played the last 20 minutes tonight."
The Midshipmen's offense was aggressive from the start, getting off two shots on goal in the ninth and 31st minutes to no avail. Coming on as a substitute in the 38th minute, freshman Michael Laret had his shot saved on Lehigh's first chance.
A Toni Adewole shot hit the crossbar in the 42nd minute and the Mountain Hawks had two consecutive shots blocked in the final three minutes to close out the first half at 0-0.
Despite Navy coming on strong to begin the half, Lehigh out-shot the Mids, 7-6 through the first 45 minutes with two saves for freshman goalkeeper Blake Koski.
The Mountain Hawks got two shots off early in the first part of the second half with a Blaise Milanek blocked shot and a shot from Josh Luchini in the 49th minute that was saved by Ian Bramblett.
The call of the game came in the 51st minute, when Luchini was tossed out of the game by the official on a straight red card, bringing Lehigh down to just 10 men for the remainder of the contest.
Three shots for Navy over the next 10 minutes set up its first goal of the game, a header goal by Toni Adewole assisted by David Jackson on the corner to put the Midshipmen up 1-0. Navy rattled off five shots, including three on goal in a 10-minute span from the 67th to the 77th.
Jack Sarkos had a couple of close opportunities starting with a shot that went just high over the crossbar in the 82nd minute. After Nolan Jetter hit the crossbar in the 89th minute, Nicko West scored on a 2-on-1, finding the back of the net for the 2-0 lead and victory.
Navy ended up registering 19 shots to Lehigh's 13m including eight shots on goal. Blake Koski made a career-high six saves. Sarkos led the Mountain Hawks with four shots and Luchini had two.
Playing in what could be their final games at the Ulrich Sports Complex, seniors Blaise Milanek, Tyler Dressman and Jonathan Blaine were honored in a special pre-game ceremony.
"Blaise, Tyler and Jon have all been important parts to this program, not just as players but as student-athletes and teammates," said Koski. "They are best friends with so many guys on the team. It's been cool to see them come in four years ago not knowing one another and grow the way they have all grown. Not only for this program, but as young men.
"They've won championships and regular season titles and have won a lot of games here. They are class acts in all ways and have been really lucky to have them. We're going to be sorry to see them go, but I know they're getting to a point where they're ready. This has been a really tough year for everybody. But I think about how much the seniors have had to sacrifice and how much they've lost not being able to have a full season. For them to manage it as well as they have is truly remarkable."
Lehigh, now on the outside looking into a Patriot League Tournament berth, close out regular season play Friday night at archrival Lafayette, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.
"We're desperate for matches right now. Being able to play Lafayette is always going to be an exciting game for us," Koski said. "Despite the fact that it doesn't have any value for points, it has value for tradition and the Rivalry. It has value for our players and for theirs.
"So we want to do all that we can to be prepared to go out and play them."
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