The Raiders arrived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania knowing that a tie or victory against Lehigh would give them home field advantage throughout the Patriot League Tournament. Holy Cross, which held first place with Colgate entering the day, tied Lafayette, 1-1 earlier in the afternoon. Since Colgate owned the tiebreaker against Holy Cross, this meant that a Raiders tie or victory would make them the first-seed, which would be a huge advantage considering their undefeated home record of 6-0-2. Unfortunately, the team left Lehigh as the second-seed of this week’s Patriot League Tournament after losing, 1-0.
The first half was relatively even, but the Raiders managed to outshoot the Mountain Hawks 5-2 and earn three corner kicks. The second half was again a defensive battle, but Lehigh made a concerted effort to push more numbers forward and attempt to break the deadlock. With four minutes remaining and the Raiders smelling home field advantage, Lehigh took advantage of a lapse in the Colgate defense when junior Jim Taranto scored a goal off a rebound.
“We didn’t play well enough to win,” Head Coach Erik Ronning said. It’s tough to give up a late goal, but it has been clear this season that most of our goals are given up when we lose focus. In recent weeks, we have gotten away from what we’ve done to be successful, and that can be corrected. We have had some trouble scoring in the last two weeks, but it is not a cause for panic and we will be ready for the Patriot League semifinal.”
The loss gave the Raiders a Patriot League record of 4-1-2 and an overall record of 8-5-4.
Colgate will square off in the semifinals against third-seed Bucknell, who they beat in a double overtime thriller, 2-1 in Hamilton earlier this season.
Coach Ronning is expecting a battle against Bucknell.
“We beat them earlier this season, but they are coming hot and it will be a tough game,” Ronning said. “We are going to need to be able to exploit their weaknesses and play focused defense for the full 90 minutes to give ourselves a chance to win. The playoffs are all about surviving and advancing, and I know we will be ready for the challenge this weekend.”
Colgate will be entering its third consecutive Patriot League Tournament. The Raiders have been unable to get out of the semifinal round the last two years, but this year’s team has the depth and experience needed to win the Patriot League. Just look at the awards given to four Raiders last Tuesday. Senior forward Eric Anton, senior defenseman Dan Belke and junior midfielder Matt “The Red Gazelle” Leach landed on the all-Patriot League first team, while junior goalie David Cappuccio was awarded with second team honors.
Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Friday.