EASTON, Pa. – Jesse Klug recorded a goal and two assists to highlight a dominant performance for the Bucknell men’s soccer team in a 3-0 win over defending Patriot League champion Lafayette on Wednesday night at Oaks Stadium. The Bison remained perfect on the road this season (6-0-1) and moved into sole possession of fourth place after a wild night of Patriot League action.
Josh Butzke and Jonathan Grad also scored for the Bison, and goalkeeper Mike Lansing made four saves to earn his seventh shutout of the season. Now 9-5-1 overall and 3-3-1 in the Patriot League, Bucknell entered the night in a three-way tie for fifth place with Colgate and Lafayette. The Raiders and Leopards both lost, and the Bison also leapfrogged fourth-place American, which fell at Loyola.
At the top of the standings, Navy remained perfect at 7-0 in league play, using an 84th-minute own goal to beat Lehigh 2-1. Meanwhile, Army fell to 6-1 after losing 2-1 at Holy Cross. The third-place Crusaders (5-2) clinched their first Patriot League Tournament berth since 2008 with the victory.
The Bison still have work to do over their final two conference matches to secure one of the six postseason berths, but head coach Brendan Nash is feeling much better after Wednesday’s performance after his team had just dropped back-to-back home games to Navy and Colgate.
“We told the guys that playing the defending champions on their home field would be a true test of character, and they passed with flying colors,” said Nash. “This was our best performance of the season in all phases of the game. We got the goal in the first half and really wanted to ramp it up in the second half. I thought we came out great in the second half and were able to get the second and third goals.”
Nash made a few lineup changes, inserting Mark Leibensperger at left back for his first career start, while pushing Brian Ward up into a central midfield position, which allowed Butzke to roam farther up the field. The moves paid immediate dividends, as all three factored in the scoring.
The opening goal came 26:17 into the match, when Ward punched a pass through the back line to Klug. The Bison striker pulled a pass across the face of goal where Butzke finished at the left post, his second goal of the season.
Around the 35-minute mark the Bison got back on their heels for one of the few times all night, as the Leopards applied pressure in the Bucknell end. After a Bison defender headed away a crossing pass, Lafayette’s Ryan Dodds stepped into a 25-yard shot from straight on, but Lansing made the save of the night to block aside Dodds’ rocket.
Two goals 5:31 apart early in the second half clinched the match. Just 4:19 after the resumption of play, Leibensperger made a great individual play to set up Klug. Leibensperger made a nice overlapping run to get forward down the left flank. His initial ball into the box was broken up, but Leibensperger corralled the clearance, split two defenders and then beat a third Leopard to the end line, where his pass was one-touched in by Klug at the near post. The junior notched his first career assist, while Klug picked up his team-leading eighth goal of the season.
In the 55th minute, Chris Thorsheim took the ball down the right flank and reversed it to Joe Meyer coming up from his right back position. Meyer’s delivery into the center of the box was settled by Klug, and Grad fired it into the back of the net for his first goal of the season. Klug drew the primary assist, giving him four points on the night and 19 on the season (eight goals, three assists).
The Bucknell defense took over from there, as Lansing did not have to face anything beyond routine in the final half-hour. The Bison yielded only eight total shots in the game en route to their eighth clean sheet of the year. In seven road matches in 2013, Bucknell has outscored opponents 13-1.
Next up for the Bison is a Senior Day clash with Holy Cross this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Emmitt Field at Holmes Stadium. Bucknell will honor seniors Butzke, Meyer, Mayowa Alli and Orman Kimbrough prior to the match. The Bison can clinch a postseason berth with a win over the Crusaders and losses or ties by Lafayette and Colgate.