Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Lehigh falls to Pittsburgh in NCAA soccer opener

Wednesday, November 27, 2019 by The Press in Sports

After early chances to score in the first half, the Lehigh men’s soccer team were held to just eight shots in 90 minutes, allowing two first half goals, eventually falling to Pitt, 2-0 at Ambrose Urbanic Field in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Mountain Hawks were aggressive early in the first half, as Josh Luchini had a shot on goal in the second minute that was saved that could have given Lehigh an early 1-0 lead. Trevor Koski followed that up with a shot of his own that was saved in the third minute. 10 minutes later, Luchini had another shot on goal that was saved during the 13th minute.

A Pittsburgh cross in the 18th minute resulted in the first shot and the first goal of the contest for Edward Kizza, giving Pitt an early 1-0 lead.

From that goal forward, the Mountain Hawks had just one more shot in the rest of the half, while the Panthers tried seven shots including two that were saved by Will Smith. In the 44th minute, Josh Hesson crossed a ball into the box and Bryce Washington poked the ball past Smith for Pitt’s second goal of the game, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

Smith had a really big start to the second half with three saves in the first 14 minutes. Smith made another save in the 70th minute and Pitt tried two more shots in the 72nd minute that were blocked and went wide left.

Senior forward Tommy Dokho had a shot that went high in the 78th, which was followed by a header shot in the 78th minute that was saved by the Pitt goalkeeper.

Josh Luchini and Trevor Koski had shots in the 87th and 90th minutes, respectively, but none made its way in, as Pitt held on for the 2-0 decision, ending the Mountain Hawks season in the first round of the postseason.

“I’m incredibly proud of this team for getting this far and winning a Patriot League Championship,” said head coach Dean Koski. “We’re a young team, playing two seniors and these are really important matches for us to have to learn from and to grow from.

“You could tell in the first half that we weren’t ourselves, we were probably a little nervous. I liked how we came out in the second half, I liked our mentality and the way we approached it. We had some good chances that we didn’t make good but Pitt’s a good team.”

Luchini led the way with three shots including two on goal, while Koski and Dokho had two shots and Tyler Dressman added one.

In his final collegiate game as the Lehigh goalkeeper, Smith made six saves. He finishes his outstanding career with over 250 saves and 25 career shutouts.

“Will has been the best keeper in the league all season,” said Koski. “He made some big saves tonight to keep it close. I think what we saw with Will, not only in terms of his goalkeeper play, but in terms of his leadership and composure and poise has really been a benefit to our program this year.

“I know we would not have won a championship if Will didn’t have the kind of year that he had.”

The Mountain Hawks close the 2019 season with a 13-5-4 overall record and the third Patriot League Championship in program history. This was the first Lehigh team to win both the regular season and tournament titles in the same season.