By Josh Liddick, Lehigh Sports Communications
Playing for a club team in addition to your college team is an honor in it of itself, but for a handful of Lehigh Men's Soccer student athletes, the honor is the ability to play club soccer just minutes from campus.
This past summer, six Lehigh players from head coach Dean Koski's squad found themselves playing for nearby Lehigh Valley United in USL League Two play for the past couple of months as the men ready themselves for the Mountain Hawks' season opener on Aug. 30 vs. Manhattan at the Ulrich Sports Complex.
Two players – Alex Greene and Stevo Bednarsky – have enjoyed significant success at the club level this summer, playing larger roles than usual on a team that has played against pretty steep competition.
Greene, returning from an injury that kept him out of the entire 2018 season, is excited to get back on track with Lehigh this fall, but has tallied a goal and an assist in 10 matches totaling 770 minutes entering the final game of the season vs. Reading United on July 14. That is the most continuous amounts of soccer Greene has played in since his junior season in 2017. For Greene, being able to play with LVU, while balancing an internship has been a blessing as he heads into his final year at Lehigh.
"Playing for LVU has been great," said Greene. "I'm taking classes at Lehigh and doing an internship with HootBoard at Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners, so being able to play with a team that is close by has made managing my time a lot easier. I've also been able to stay closely connected with my coaches and athletic trainer.
"It feels great to be able to play soccer again, and I'm looking forward to my final season. This summer, I've spent a lot of time getting into shape and, most importantly, getting my confidence back. Playing lots of minutes for LVU has helped me in both aspects."
Greene has tallied 10 goals and nine assists, while making 43 career appearances at Lehigh since he began his stint with the team in 2015. He will look to get back to his old self from 2017, where he earned First Team All-Patriot League honors after a five goal, four assist season that included two game-winning goals.
Coming off rehabilitation over the past 12 months to playing this summer is essential for Alex's immersion back into playing D1 soccer at the speed and intensity to be successful," said Lehigh head coach Dean Koski. "Coming off his first games back this past spring, Alex needed the summer league to get back into proper playing form."
Bednarsky is another Lehigh player who is enjoying success on the pitch this summer with LVU in addition to preparing for his junior season with the Mountain Hawks in 2019. He's scored two goals with an assist in 10 games while playing 819 total minutes with just one game to play in the regular season. This is his second season playing for Lehigh Valley United and is fortunate for being able to share the field with many of his teammates, both old and new while forming new relationships with players and growing old ones.
"Our Lehigh team is already a close knit group, so spending basically the entire year together only enhances those relationships both on and off the field," Bednarsky said. "So having that chemistry with those guys this summer is something that will definitely translate into the fall season.
"The summer is a great opportunity for all players to grow and improve their game, so getting more game experience in the midfield will only help me when the season comes around. With immense help from coach Andy Adlard and the rest of my teammates, they really allowed me to take on the central midfield role which helped developed my game and I'm excited to incorporate that into this upcoming season with Lehigh."
Bednarsky played a crucial midfield role for the Mountain Hawks last season after earning a Third Team All-Patriot League selection his freshman season in 2017 as a defender. He is still searching for his first career collegiate goal, but if this summer with LVU is any indication, that elusive strike should be coming sooner rather than later.
In addition to Greene and Bednarsky, four of Koski's players, including Josh Luchini, Michael Tahiru, Trevor Koski and freshman Euan Forrest have also spent time with LVU this summer in various roles. Every one of those players will figure to be crucial pieces to the Mountain Hawks' run to a third-ever Patriot League Championship, one season shy from falling just one win short from an appearance in the championship game for the first time since the 2015 season.
"The opportunity for a core group of Lehigh players to train and compete on a USL League Two team is invaluable," Dean Koski said. "Tahiru, Greene, Koski and Bednarsky will all get opportunities to not only play pivotal roles, but to play together as well.
"The USL 2 league has grown competitively and it aligns very well with collegiate soccer at all levels. To be able to play with and against their college peers is the best of all worlds for development during the summer."
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