It looked like the Eagles had a tough 90 minutes ahead of them at the beginning of the game. Lehigh, with a Patriot League Tournament berth on the line, came ready to play. After rounding off four shots in the first five minutes, the Mountain Hawks’ Courtney Supp found the back of the net in the 13th minute.
“We didn't start the way that we wanted to and that left us battling back,” head coach Marsha Harper said postgame.
Despite conceding an early goal, the Eagles had a remarkable turnaround. They matched Lehigh’s shots in the first half 7-7 and edged the opposition in corner kicks 2-1. AU was not surrendering on home turf just yet.
“We respond[ed] with energy and effort going forward from that moment,” Harper said. “I think we certainly got into the final third more than we have and that's definitely something to take away,” she added.
AU unleashed an offensive dominance that the program hadn’t seen all season. In the last three league fixtures, the Eagles have trailed every opponent in total shots taken — even as wide of a margin as 26-11 in their game versus Colgate. Against Lehigh, however, they held a 12-10 shooting advantage.
“I think it's some of the best soccer we [have] played in the attacking third this year,” junior midfielder Ashley Molz said.
But much like other games this season, AU lacked the final pass necessary to surpass Lehigh’s goalkeeper and failed to capitalize on easy tap-ins on goal.
“We keep talking to them about playing a complete 90 minutes of soccer,” Harper said. “There’s going to be highs and lows but, [when] finding the moments when we need to execute, we need to do something with them.”
“We were there and had those chances in the box, but we just need to finish those opportunities,” Molz said.
The Mountain Hawks’ insurance goal in the 58th minute kept the score to 2-1 by the end, in spite of Smith’s finish.
“If we can start the game off better and eliminate early goals from the opposite team, we will put ourselves in a better position to win,” Molz said.
With the loss, the Eagles put themselves in a precarious position to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Lehigh, on the other hand, will advance to the PL Tournament with the win.
“If we had this type of game earlier in the season, it would have been a more positive kind of thought,” Harper said. “But, now it's championship season and we can't have this type of game at this part of the season,” she added.
AU is currently one of four other teams in the conference — between Army, Lafayette and Colgate — vying for the final playoff position. In order to secure such an opportunity, Harper’s side needs to win the next game to qualify for the first time since 2015.