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BETHLEHEM, Pa. (Nov. 7, 2004 ?C Sophomore Simon Omekanda (Rochester Hills, Mich.) scored a goal and freshman goalkeeper Conrad Taylor (Colorado Springs, Colo.) recorded his eighth shutout of the season to lead the 14th-ranked Penn State men??s soccer team to a 1-0 victory over Lehigh in both teams?? regular season finales Sunday at Ulrich Field.
The Nittany Lions, who will enter the Big Ten Championships as the No. 6 seed, finish their regular season at 10-3-7 after closing out the season with a six-game unbeaten streak (4-0-2). They will be back in action when they play No. 3 seed Northwestern at 11:45 a.m. Thursday in the first game of the Big Ten Championships in Ann Arbor, Mich. Penn State will enter the tournament as the Big Ten??s No. 6 seed.
??Lehigh played well, especially in the second half,?? said Penn State head coach Barry Gorman. ??But we were comfortably in control of the game. We are looking forward to the Big Ten Tournament. I think, considering the injuries we??ve had and the players we held out today, our squad is strong and I think the guys are ready for the Big Ten Tournament.??
Taylor stopped four shots to record his eighth shutout of the season, which is two shy of the school record of 10 held by Angelo Nickas (1980) and Whit Gibson (1998). He has allowed just one goal over the Nittany Lions?? past six games to lower his goals against average to 1.03.
Penn State knew that it would have a hard time scoring goals against a tough Mountain Hawk defense that has recorded 10 shutouts on the season, including three straight heading into the contest. Lehigh had allowed just 10 goals all year heading into the game against the Nittany Lions for a 0.56 goals against average.
But Omekanda was able to score his fifth goal of the season off a cross from freshman Richard Costanzo (Jefferson Hills, Pa.) at 31 minutes, 2 seconds to give Penn State the only goal it would need. Costanzo fed Omekanda a perfect cross at the back post. Omekanda put the ball in the net from eight yards out. Junior midfielder Brian Devlin (Philadelphia, Pa.) also received an assist on the play after feeding a nice pass to Costanzo.
The Nittany Lions outshot Lehigh 17-8, including a 9-2 advantage in the first half. The Mountain Hawks?? Charlie Sales stopped seven Penn State shots to keep his team in the game.
Penn State??s defense kept Lehigh off the board despite playing with a very young back line. Freshmen Stephen Reihner (Washington, Pa.) and Geordie MacNeill (Ontario, Canada), sophomore David Gray (Lemont, Pa.) and senior Anthony Calvano (Haymarket, Va.) started the game and held a Nittany Lion opponent scoreless for the fifth time in their last six games.
Game notes: - Penn State has allowed just one goal in its last six games. - Sophomore Simon Omekanda snapped a six game scoreless streak with his goal. He also matched his career high of 14 points. - Freshman goalkeeper Conrad Taylor has stopped 21 shots, while allowing just one goal, over Penn State??s last six games to lower his goals against average to 1.03. - Penn State??s six-game unbeaten streak to end the season is its longest since 2001, when it also ended the regular season with a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1). The 2001 squad also allowed just one goal over its final six games. - Penn State recorded its 10th win against Lehigh. The Nittany Lions have recorded at least 10 wins in 28 of the past 29 years. - Penn State has now beaten Lehigh by the same 1-0 score in four straight seasons. No. 14 Penn State 1 Lehigh 0 Penn State 1 0 ?C 1 Lehigh 0 0 ?C 0 1st half scoring 1. Simon Omekanda, PSU, (Richard Costanzo, Brian Devlin) 31:02. Shots: PSU ?C 17; LU ?C 8. Saves: PSU ?C 4 (Conrad Taylor); LU ?C 7 (Charlie Sales). Corners: PSU ?C 0; LU ?C 2. Fouls: PSU ?C 9; LU ?C 7. Records: PSU ?C 10-3-7; LU ?C 11-6-2. Next game: No. 14 Penn State vs. Northwestern, 11:45 a.m.
Thursday at Big Ten Tournament in Ann Arbor, Mich.