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Rutgers men's soccer faces Lehigh on Friday

Sophomore forward Ola Maeland comes off a 2-point performance in his last game as the Rutgers men's soccer team is set to play Lehigh.  – Photo by Rutgers Men's Soccer / Twitter

The Rutgers men’s soccer team has an opportunity to extend its unbeaten streak to five games on Friday night, as it takes on Lehigh in a non-conference matchup at Yurcak Field.

The Scarlet Knights (3-0-1, 0-0-0) have already earned a spot in the program record books this year by going four games without allowing a single goal — a feat last accomplished by the 1990 team that made the NCAA tournament final. Junior goalkeeper Oren Asher — who earned his second straight Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award this week — is currently the only goalkeeper in the NCAA who has yet to concede a goal through 360 minutes of play.

“It’s been a good start. I think our players have stuck to the task a little bit,” said Rutgers head men's soccer coach Jim McElderry. “None of these games are easy. Not conceding goals is difficult — (I'm) proud of this group’s kind of diligent attack on defending. It’s something that we wanted to be better than we had been over the last couple of seasons.”

The Knights face a Lehigh team that has struggled early on this season. The Mountain Hawks (0-3-0, 0-0-0) have lost all three of their games, scoring just one goal on the season (which came in their 2-1 defeat to No. 3 Pittsburgh last Friday). Lehigh has a goal differential of -5, and is coming off a shortened spring season in which it went 2-4 in an all-Patriot League schedule.

Rutgers is coming off a 2-0 win over Mount St. Mary’s on Monday night that saw them register 16 shots. Sophomore forward Ola Maeland was the leading offensive contributor with a goal and an assist, with senior midfielder Pablo Avila scoring the second goal. 

The Knights have also seen contributions from some of their freshmen players in the early part of the non-conference slate, with freshmen midfielders Nico Rosamilia and Matthew Acosta and freshman defender Joey Zalinsky all featuring in each match. The trio all come to the program having played in the New York Red Bulls Academy — something that McElderry says has contributed to their development.

“I think it’s just the ability to acclimate to new environments — whether it’s the Big Ten or the pro level,” McElderry said. “I think they have the experience of show up, train hard, control what you can control.”

For updates on the Rutgers men's soccer team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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