Defending champ Lehigh early favorites, nearly sweep preseason awards slate
BETHLEHEM, PA. – The Lehigh men’s soccer team are trying to re-establish themselves as Patriot League champions and are ready to kick off the 2021 season when the league announced their pre-season awards for the upcoming campaign, which were announced Monday morning.
The Mountain Hawks were selected first with 17 votes, while junior striker Josh Luchini and senior midfielder Stevo Bednarsky were named Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and Preseason Midfielder of the Year. Junior defender Nick Jennings joins Luchini and Bednarsky on the preseason All-Patriot League team for the year.
Luchini had a second season whale of his own, ending up as the Patriot League of the Year offensive player, the First Team All-Patriot League selection, the First Team All-Atlantic Region selection, and the Third Team All-American selection. The Wexford, Pennsylvania native scored 11 goals with two assists for 24 points in 2019 and scored 17 goals with six assists for 40 points in two seasons with the Mountain Hawks.
After a season that has captivated many Division I football enthusiasts and media members, Luchini has many eyes fixed on himself as he begins his third season on South Mountain. Before the coming year, he was included in the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List and in the Preseason Best XI Second Team of Top Drawer Soccer. With two more seasons at Lehigh, Luchini has the opportunity to build on his huge success of 2019.
Luchini is Lehigh’s first preseason offensive of the year since Mark Forrest before the 2018 season and the third since Kyle Evans in 2008.
Bednarsky is arguably one of the main reasons Lehigh won his third Patriot League title in program history in 2019 and was named League of the Year preseason midfielder before spring 2021. The two-time All-Patriot League selection and First Teamer 2019 scored two goals with one assist and was also a selection of the second team for the entire Atlantic region by the United Soccer Coaches.
The captain was one of four team members who received All-Tournament Team recognition when the Mountain Hawks defeated arch-rival Lafayette in the title game to move on to the NCAA tournament. He made 20 starts last season and had five shots on goal for SOG% of 38.5 percent.
“I’m not surprised Josh and Stevo were selected as preseason player of the year based on their success in 2019, and I’m sure they are humble that others think that is high,” said head coach Dean Koski. “If you know you as well as I do, you will see this recognition as a motivation to work harder and to be better at whatever you do.
“Nick’s selection for the preseason All-League team is also great. Like his teammates, this will inspire him to achieve even more.”
Jennings made his debut as a third-team All-Patriot League defender in 2019 and will continue to grow as a key member of the defense in 2021 and beyond. In his second season, he scored five points with three assists and one goal, including a game-winning PK in the 1-0 home win against Loyola on October 12, 2019.
The Lehigh defense will certainly miss the standout Zarin Tuten, who was selected as the First Team All-Patriot League in 2019 and was the key member of the backline, which has racked up 19 shutouts in the past two seasons. Jennings, along with seniors Tyler Dressman and Blaise Milanek and second Andrew White, will be looking to continue the trend this season.
With 17 votes in first place and 161 total points, the Mountain Hawks are by far the favorites of the pre-season spring 2021. Navy comes in second with two votes in first place, while Loyola comes in third with a single first place was voting. With four teams making up the Patriot League tournament field this year, as opposed to the typical six, Colgate rounds off the top 4 with 122 points.
“We’re humble to be selected first in the preseason poll, but we also know that this makes us the team we need to be chased,” said Koski. “Still, we have to face the challenge and do our best to do justice to this distinction because we are so important to every team and every coach in this league.”
“Given the brevity of the league game and the intensity of each game, this could be our most challenging season in many years.”
Lehigh starts the regular season with six games on March 6 and competes against Americans in Washington DC. The Mountain Hawks return to Ulrich Sports Complex on March 13 against Army West Point for the first time since taking the Patriot League crown against Lafayette on November 16, 2019.
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2020-21 Patriot League men’s football preseason all-league team
Drew Fischer, Colgate, So., F.
Josh Luchini, Lehigh, Jr., F.
Jacob Williams, Navy, Jr., F.
Matthew Thorsheim, Bucknell, Sr., M.
Stevo Bednarsky, Lehigh, Sr., M.
Justin Ingram, Loyola Maryland, Sr., M.
Will Stroud, Colgate, Jr., D.
Nick Jennings, Lehigh, Jr., D.
Jonathan Sousa, Loyola Maryland, Gr., D.
Matt Nocita, Navy, Jr., D.
Chase Vosvick, Loyola Maryland, Sr., GK
Offensive player of the preseason of the year: Josh Luchini, Lehigh, Jr., F.
Preseason Midfielder of the Year: Stevo Bednarsky, Lehigh, Sr., M.
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Matt Nocita, Navy, Jr., D.
2020-21 Patriot League Men’s Football Pre-Season Survey
Lehigh – 161 (17 votes in first place)
Marine – 133 (2)
Loyola – 124 (1)
Colgate – 122
Lafayette – 97
Bucknell – 76
Army West Point – 75
Boston University – 51
Americans – 42
Holy Cross – 22