Mertz, Lehigh reach Patriot League playoffs
Sabrina Mertz is the type of soccer player a coach can plug into multiple positions on the field. Whether it’s at forward or in the midfield area, Mertz doesn’t miss a beat.
This past season was a prime example of that. In her third year at Lehigh University, she played both positions for the womens soccer team and helped lead the Mountain Hawks to another successful season.
Her junior season at Lehigh was similar to her freshman campaign when she led the Mountain Hawks in scoring. She finished with a goal and three assists in 2017, but played a majority of her time at forward like she did as freshman.
“I was playing a lot more forward this year, and then towards the end of the season I moved more into the midfield and wherever our personnel fit,” Mertz said. “My freshman year, I played a little bit more forward, so it was kind of getting used to that position again. I like either position.”
Lehigh finished the fall 9-5-4 (5-2-2 in the Patriot League) and fell to Colgate in the league tournament quarterfinals. It was the second straight season in which the Mountain Hawks qualified for the postseason
“I thought we had another really great season,” Mertz said. “We brought back a lot of returners, which I think really helped us. Unfortunately again we kind of got unlucky in the quarterfinals and lost in overtime again. But overall I thought we had a great season.”
The playoff loss, a 1-0 defeat to Colgate in overtime, was undoubtedly heartbreaking for this group. Colgate’s Emily Crichlow scored in the 99th minute to end Lehigh’s season in the league quarterfinals for the second straight season.
“I would say overall between any of the teams in the Patriot League, they are definitely kind of similar to our style of play,” Mertz said. “They try to move the ball through the midfield and connect a lot of passes, which we like that. I think both of us had a lot of good chances, and they were lucky to put one in at the right time.”
But for a team pegged fifth in the Patriot League preseason poll, earning one of the final postseason spots is where most would have expected the Mountain Hawks to end up.
“There is a pretty big divide I think in the Patriot League between the top five teams and then the other five teams,” Mertz said. “So I think we knew that we were going to be in that top five; we just didn’t know where…Those top five teams are always very consistent and up there, and when you play any of them it can go either way.”
Lehigh will lose six players to graduation from this year’s team. Mertz will be one of a handful of seniors that plans to take on a bigger leadership role in 2017.
And that leadership has kind of already started with offseason workouts. The team currently holds training sessions until winter break with 7-on-7 games. While in a laid-back setting, it gives the team a new look as it prepares for the future.
“We’re going to lose a lot of seniors who I’ve been playing with for three years now,” Mertz said. “Continuing to build those relationships with the younger players I think is very important.”
There’s also the future career path part of it that Mertz is starting to think about. With a major in finance, Mertz is still undecided what career she wants to pursue exactly, but does have an internship lined up this summer.
“Time really, really flies. It feels like just yesterday that I was still playing with [Sarah] Segan and all of them at Northwestern,” Mertz said. “But it’s exciting, too, at the same time. Now you have to start looking toward what you want to do with your life now besides soccer.”