LEWISBURG, Pa. – Ben Derleth knocked in a corner kick just 6:15 in to the game and Bucknell’s defense took over from there in a key 1-0 home victory over Army West Point on Saturday evening at Emmitt Field. Now 3-3 in Patriot League, the victory coupled with other results around the league helped the Bison vault from seventh place all the way up to fourth in the table.
Army (8-5-1, 2-3-1 PL) outshot the Bison 11-4 and attempted 10 corner kicks, but goalkeeper Ryan Ott and the back four of Tyler Peterson, Quinn Bredin, Dan Bank and Bernie Wright held strong. The final stat sheet credits Ott with two saves, but that doesn’t tell the story of his impact on the game. Ott was in complete control of the box all night, plucking one service after another out of the air. He posted his fifth shutout of the season and lowered his goals-against average to 0.97.
“We showed tonight that we learned from some of our mistakes from earlier in the year,” said head coach Brendan Nash, whose team had uncharacteristically let a few leads slip away in recent weeks. “If you look back at Bucknell teams through the years, we usually start playing more consistently at the end of the year. Our three seniors have won a Patriot League championship and played in an NCAA Tournament, and they have done a good job bringing out younger guys along.”
The game was barely six minutes old when the Bison got on the board on the first of their three corner kick attempts, and they cashed in on a play that was just installed this week in practice to help keep the ball away from Army’s towering center back Zac McGraw, who was picked as the Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Freshman Matt Thorsheim delivered an inswinger to the near post, where the senior Derleth got position on goalkeeper Justin Stoll and deflected the ball in for his second goal of the year.
McGraw had Army’s best chance of the night, but his running header in traffic hit the right post with about 14 minutes remaining in regulation.
While they took care of their own business on the field, the Bison also got some help from around the league. Entering the night, they were tied for seventh place with American but trailed Army, Colgate and Holy Cross by just a single point. Colgate fell 2-1 at Lafayette, Holy Cross lost 3-0 at Loyola, and American lost 4-1 at home to Lehigh. That allowed Bucknell to leap all the way into sole possession of fourth place on nine points, with the Army-Colgate-Holy Cross triumvirate now tied for fifth with seven points with three games remaining in the regular season. The top six teams qualify for the Patriot League Tournament.
Next up for the Bison is a mid-week road test at third-place Lehigh on Wednesday, followed by a Senior Day home game against co-leader Boston University next Saturday afternoon. Bucknell is now 5-7-3 overall this season and 5-2 at home.
“This is a huge week for all 10 teams in the Patriot League,” said Nash. “Getting three points in the first game of the week hopefully gives us some momentum going into this stretch.”