Considering the paramount test Penn State men’s soccer faces on Saturday against No. 15-ranked Indiana, it would be a conceivable notion for the team to look past a winless Lehigh club.
With a home match-up against one of the Big Ten’s best on the horizon, coach Bob Warming and his team are trying to keep their focus on Tuesday’s trip to Lehigh.
“It is a challenge, let’s be honest, [the Indiana game] is of national significance in terms of RPI and national tournament selection,” Warming said. “… But the team has been in a mode of continually improving every day and taking it one day at a time.”
While they haven’t cracked the top 25 yet (nine votes in NSCAA rankings as of Sept. 18), the Nittany Lions (6-1-1) would almost certainly catapult themselves into the national conversation with a win or draw against the Hoosiers.
However, with that in the back of their minds, the Lions still have to win on the road against a scrappy Lehigh (0-7-0) team craving an upset.
“Every time we play in-state we get a different level of effort out of our opponent… [We’re] gonna get their absolute maximum effort,” Warming said.
The Mountain Hawks have been ravaged by heartbreak all season long, losing twice in overtime against less than stellar squads in Stony Brook and Saint Peter’s.
Not only have they lost all of their 2012 contests, but Lehigh has also had trouble scoring. The team has scored only two goals all season — something that will obviously work toward the Lions’ favors.
Senior defender Brian Forgue said the back line has grown as a unit during the course of the season, and a levelheaded approach will be the key to getting a shutout.
On the offensive end, it will be interesting to see who produces for the Lions against an ornery Lehigh defense that has held opponents to one goal on four occasions this year.
Penn State’s scoring attack will need to continue its momentum in order to tack on another victory.
In the Lions’ 1-0 win over Wisconsin on Friday night, the Lions out-shot the Badgers 23-9 with the final shot on target netting the game-winner by freshman Kelton Cheney in the 82nd minute.
Cheney, who came on in the 78th minute, has been on point lately as a substitute, scoring twice in the past two contests.
With the State College High School graduate living up to the hype (he was a top 10 Pennsylvania recruit), the Lions have a potent attack featuring Julian Cardona, Mikey Minutillo, Danny Burnham, and now Cheney.
“We have been improving offensively throughout the season in terms of creating quality chances,” Cardona said, “We look to build on that with a couple of goals [Tuesday] night.”