Eagles held scoreless in season opening loss against Lehigh
Harper era begins and shows offseason improvement
After 491 days without American University women’s soccer, a new era for the program has arrived. In the first game under head coach Marsha Harper and of the 2021 season, the Eagles fell short in a 1-0 loss to Lehigh University Saturday evening.
With snow on the sidelines and frigid temperatures in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, AU was held to very few offensive moments with just two shots on goal compared to Lehigh’s four. The only goal of the game came in the 53rd minute, with a cross shot near the AU bench from Lehigh’s Bridget Casey. Sailing over the head of senior goalie Ryleigh Brown into the top left corner, the Mountain Hawks only needed one goal to seal the victory.
The Eagles approached this season knowing they needed to create more offensive opportunities in games this season, having scored just 19 goals in 18 games last season. Despite the lack of offensive production, AU will look to build on the efforts of its first outing.
"We didn't get a 'W,' but I told the team that we can learn from every moment and every game,” Harper said afterward. “There's absolutely some bright spots in how we played and what we've been working on, especially in moments where we were able to attack in transition. There's also some areas that we know we need to address.”
Lehigh held a 6-2 advantage in corner kicks, putting pressure on Brown and forcing the defense to come up with big plays to stop the opposing offense. The Mountain Hawks also drew five offside calls compared to two calls for American.
American’s two shots on goal came from senior Reagan Gould in the 56th minute and sophomore Fisayo Iluyomade in the 59th minute, both handled by Lehigh goalie Miranda Royds. Royds had 90 saves for the Mountain Hawks last season and led the Patriot League in saves among goalkeepers, a major factor in this Lehigh team’s makeup.
American’s defense also shined Saturday night, keeping Lehigh to just seven shots in the opener. Though there wasn’t an offensive tally on the stat sheet for the Eagles, the team’s performance did highlight their strengths as well as components they need to work on.
“Moving forward, we told the team that every moment can be a stepping stone,” Harper said. “This is our first game in however many days that we've been away from the game. It's certainly something we can use in our favor."
Tight-scoring games haven’t been uncommon between these two Patriot League teams. In the last 10 matchups between Lehigh and American, all of them have ended in 1-0 final scores — the latest of which came in both teams’ last games before the pandemic, a 2OT win for American that gave them their only conference win of the year.
The Eagles will look to get their first win when they hit the road next week in Annapolis, Maryland to face Navy at 7 p.m. on Friday.