Season Preview: Lehigh Hopes Focus on Reliability Leads To High Performance
The Lehigh women’s soccer team is looking for that little bit extra. Three seasons away from a berth in the Patriot League championship game, the Mountain Hawks have walked a fine line for the past two seasons. One game, one moment, one goal was the difference between positive and negative results, and for the past two seasons the Mountain Hawks have barely met their post-season expectations.
As the fall 2021 season begins, Lehigh hopes to do a better job when these great moments present themselves. If the Mountain Hawks can do that, they feel confident that they can be back where they want to be.
“We’ve been very close as a program over the past few years,” said head coach Eric Lambinus. “We played a lot of one-goal games. We had a lot of draws. We’re only a moment away from being really good in many of our games.”
“The subject we’ve been working on is being reliable,” continued Lambinus. “The most important skill we have is our reliability. If we are reliable, we will be more consistent. To be able to take care of those moments, because when you look back on a season like 2018 where we are great We have come very far in these key moments. We have really tried to be reliable. To be there for each other. We do our job and are consistent in the way we do it so that we can work at a higher level . “
Lehigh’s recent successes have been built on solid defensive foundations. The Mountain Hawks have only allowed 20 goals in the last 24 games of their last two seasons.
Behind Lehigh’s back line, the Mountain Hawks will have a new goalkeeper in the graduate of Miranda Royds, who has seen most of the past three seasons. Lehigh starts the season with three goalkeepers, Junior Celia Eitzel, sophomore Violette Bonvallet and freshman Abby Trainor; everyone who might get opportunities to prove themselves at the start of the season.
“Our three goalkeepers are talented but inexperienced so we don’t know how they will fare at the moment,” said Lambinus. “Abby, Violette and Celia bring a little bit more because they are all very good with their feet. This group can do some saves, but they are really good with their feet. It will really help us the way we play.” The way we defend, the way we hold the ball, will be a little different with these goalkeepers. We’ll give them chances during the non-league season but we hope that one of them will take the position by playing in the Patriot League. “
Ahead of the goalkeepers, Lehigh’s back line has less experience than previous seasons but is a group of talent and potential with multiple seasoned players battling for expanded roles. Senior Erin Keefe is the group’s most accomplished player and was recognized across the league and region last spring. Seniors Megan Lundmark and Sydney Staples are veterans who will battle for time alongside junior Julia Lalama. Sophomores Emma Roesing and Imani Ashman did well during the spring season. Junior Julianna Bonner could play a role as a full-back or as a broad midfielder or striker. Appoline Neveu is the only defender in the first year. Senior Bridget Casey was injured in the spring and will likely miss the fall.
“We were a little worried because we didn’t have a lot of experience returning, but I still think it will be one of our team’s strengths,” said Lambinus. “If you add Ryelle Shuey as a defensive midfielder who works in defense, including Erin Keefe, there are two all-league players. They are really going to cement our defensive form. We have a number of different players who are super talented and played to have.” so far good in the preseason. We will still be hard to score and we will be good in set pieces and defensive set pieces because our defensive staff are really good in those situations. “
Second-team All-Patriot League honoree Ryelle Shuey will play a key role as the defensive midfielder who connects defense with attack. She has also shown the ability to push forward to deliver offense when asked to. Midfield could be Lehigh’s lowest position group with up to six players who could comfortably play in starting roles. Returnees in midfield include senior Rebecca Van Siclen, who could contribute on the wing or as a striker, juniors Chloe Sherman and Mattie Murphy, and sophomore Alex Odle. First year players Hope Flanegin, Zoe Schutter and Sammy Judge will drive the returning core forward. Senior Abby Furtmann is likely to miss the season due to an injury.
“This is our largest pool of players,” said Lambinus of the midfield. “We have about six players that we think can start and some of our first year players will be in the mix. It’s about finding the right combination and being able to do that in those places switch with a number of different players. “
At Striker, Lehigh has a number of quality players who will work to take whatever opportunities they were able to create. Seniors Courtney Supp and Rebecca Van Siclen will be at the top or as attacking midfielders. Junior Julianna Bonner will be involved here together with her classmate Ciara Saxton, second graders Ava Schaller and Wendie Fisher as well as newcomers Lindy Bobrow and Corinne Lyght.
“It’s a matter of confidence and repetition,” said Lambinus of the group of strikers. “We have good players at the top who are hungry and we feel like some of them can do really well there.”
The Patriot League continues to be competitive top to bottom, and to prepare for that gauntlet, Lambinus has put together a league prep schedule that includes MAAC Power Monmouth and a couple of Big East programs (St. John’s and Seton Hall ) includes.
“We’ve had years where eight or nine teams could win the league if they got in the right position,” said Lambinus. “Every game is a single goal game. So we set up the game plan outside of the league, played against a lot of really good teams from different leagues that are very successful in their leagues, and put us in a position where it will be one to reach a goal here or there and find out how we act in these moments.
“The competitiveness of our games outside of the league will help,” he continued. “We’re trying to figure out who we are, what our rotation is and how we get into these Patriot League games. It will help us to be battle-tested with a lot of really competitive games on the schedule outside of the league, which I think are among the top teams in our league, we have to be ready on day one. “
If the Mountain Hawks continue to work and capitalize on these key moments, they could be prepared for a successful season this fall.
“It’s a talented group and a group that works hard,” said Lambinus. “We hope that we can lead them in a direction that brings out the best in them. This is definitely a team that can no doubt compete with any team in our league. There is no game in our league that we don’t win But there is no game that we cannot lose. It will be a fight every single game, but we are excited to see what this group can achieve. “
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