CHESTER, Pa. – Senior Dante Fantoni and sophomore Dan Taylor paced the offense with five points apiece while sophomore Matt Poillon made 11 saves in goal as the #17/19 Lehigh men’s lacrosse team topped #12/13 Penn State, 12-10 in the Whitman’s Sampler Independence Classic Saturday at PPL Park. Lehigh took a 5-1 halftime lead, but the Nittany Lions scored eight of the next 10 goals to take a 9-7 fourth-quarter advantage. The Mountain Hawks answered with five of the final six for the impressive victory on a national stage.
“I’m really proud of the team and my guys,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “It’s been tough early going so far [this season]. We’ve had a lot of reflection and a lot of talking amongst our players. I really challenged the guys to step up and live in the moment.
“I think we’ve been glowing in our past a little too much and focused on the future a little too much,” Cassese continued. “We forgot about the present. I think tonight was the accurate representation of what Lehigh Lacrosse is about.”
Taylor tied a career high with three assists and five points while Fantoni posted his 17th career hat trick, scoring three and adding two assists. Sophomore Patrick Corbett scored three goals for his third career hat trick while senior David DiMaria added two assists.
The defense held Penn State to just one goal for the game’s first 32:01, including a 25:24 scoreless stretch which allowed the offense to score five straight. Poillon made 11 saves, eight in the first half, in his return from injury after missing three games. He was named Player of the Game by Inside Lacrosse.
The game was part of a college lacrosse tripleheader at PPL Park as St. John’s took on Syracuse in game one followed by Villanova and Penn then Lehigh and Penn State.
“This is first class, from Inside Lacrosse who I have so much respect for, to PPL Park which is an incredible venue, to Whitman’s Sampler and everybody involved in this event,” said Cassese. “One third of our team hails from the Philadelphia area. Having them come back in a homecoming of sorts is really special and obviously to get the win is even more special.”
Penn State scored first as Erik Myers made it 1-0 at 7:22 of the first quarter, but Poillon and the Lehigh defense would bear down from there. The Mountain Hawks held the Nittany Lions scoreless the rest of the half. Fantoni scored twice in the first quarter, with an Alan Henderson score in between, to make it 3-1 after one quarter of play.
Sophomore Alex Drake scored his second of the season at 10:29 of the second before Taylor finished a highlight-reel behind the back shot with 5:12 left in the quarter to make it 5-1, which stood as the halftime score.
Penn State had an answer in the third quarter, scoring five of the six goals. Taylor netted Lehigh’s only marker at 9:06, but the Nittany Lions pulled even at six after three quarters of play.
The momentum carried over into the fourth quarter as Penn State went up two (9-7) following a TJ Sanders marker at 12:43, the Nittany Lions’ second goal in five seconds. However, Lehigh wouldn’t go away as Corbett scored all three of his goals in a span of 7:47. After he pulled the Mountain Hawks to within 9-8, Fantoni tied it at 9:15. Junior Cody Ferraro gave Lehigh a 10-9 lead then Corbett erased any doubt with goals at 5:02 and 3:19. Penn State scored with three seconds remaining, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Lehigh held a 34-32 edge in shots while Penn State had a 32-20 advantage in groundballs. The Nittany Lions were 3-of-5 on the extra man to the Mountain Hawks’ 2-of-6. Poillon made 11 saves while Penn State’s Austin Kaut finished with seven.
“This is the team that I thought we would have this year, the team that we showed tonight,” said Cassese. “I say that as we didn’t play great, but we played really hard. We fought for everything, we contested everything. That is really the core of the program. That’s what we’ve built ourselves around and that was on display tonight. This should give us the benchmark of what we have to do every single time we step onto the field.”
Lehigh will return to action next Saturday when it heads to Army for its Patriot League opener. Opening faceoff is set for 12 p.m.