ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team dug out of an early 4-1 hole with a vengeance, scoring eight unanswered goals to run past #19 Navy, 9-4, on Friday evening. The Mountain Hawks (10-1, 3-0 Patriot League) held the Midshipmen (5-4, 3-2) scoreless for the game’s final 40:02 in yet another dominant defensive effort.
The win marked Lehigh’s first-ever at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The Mountain Hawks have now won two straight against Navy after snapping a 26-game losing streak last season, which dated back to 1913.
“This team continues to impress me,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “We had a lot of obstacles to overcome, including a very talented Navy team, being down early in the first quarter and taking a deficit into halftime. I come back to the leadership and the maturity of this group and the will and desire to win.”
Lehigh upped its already program-record winning streak to nine straight games, reaching 10 wins on the season for only the fifth time in program history and first since 1997 when the Mountain Hawks finished 11-4. Lehigh improves to 6-0 on the road this season and 5-1 against nationally-ranked teams, while improving to 1-5 all-time in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. It marked the first time any current Mountain Hawk played in the historic stadium; Lehigh’s last game at Navy came in 2008.
With the win, Lehigh improves to 3-0 in league title for the first time since 1999, which marked the team’s only Patriot League Championship.
The Mountain Hawks allowed four goals in the game’s first 19:58, but shut down a potent Navy attack after that. Lehigh held star Navy attackman Tucker Hull to only a single goal. Coming in, he stood second in the nation in points per game (5.1) with 41 points in his first eight contests.
Lehigh allowed only seven second-half shots, with only two on cage. Lehigh freshman goalie Matt Poillon finished with six saves as the Mountain Hawks allowed four goals or fewer for the sixth time this season.
“The defense is the heart and soul of our team,” said Cassese. “I give Coach [Brendan] Callahan and Coach [Errol] Wilson all the credit in the world. They’re really gelling with this group and getting them to buy in. Our kids believe it. You can see the confidence that they’re playing with.
“They realize that regardless of how many goals go in in the first half, there’s a second half to be played,” he continued. “They brought their A game in the second half.”
The 40:22 scoreless streak marked the third straight game that Lehigh has held an opponent scoreless for at least one stretch of 20 minutes. It was also the third time this season it’s held an opponent scoreless for at least 40 minutes, along with Manhattan (60:00) and VMI (45:33). The Lehigh defense has posted a scoreless streak of at least 15:00 in all 10 wins this season.
Freshman Patrick Corbett led the offense with three goals and an assist for his first-career hat trick. Junior Dante Fantoni posted a goal and two assists while senior Adam Johnston added two goals. Lehigh was without the services of junior David DiMaria, who was serving a suspension.
Lehigh took a quick 1-0 lead in the early going, capitalizing on its first offensive chance. On a delayed penalty, senior Roman Lao-Gosney made a move from behind the net before beating Navy goalie R.J. Wickham at the 11:51 mark. However, the Midshipmen answered just 1:29 later as Erik Hoffstadt tied it up. After a Navy goal at 9:09, Logan West won the ensuing faceoff off a procedure call and went in all the way to make it 3-1 just five seconds later.
The Mountain Hawks’ defense bore down, holding Navy off the board until 12:02 of the second when Hull fired a rocket past Poillon on the extra man to make it 4-1.
With Lehigh struggling offensively, junior Brian Hess ended a 22:21 drought at the 4:30 mark off a nice feed from sophomore Matt Smith. Just over two minutes later, Corbett scooped a groundball off an initial Wickham save and beat the keeper to pull within 4-3 heading into halftime.
Corbett tied the score early in the third, off an extra man opportunity forced from a Navy penalty with just one second remaining in the second quarter. Again, Corbett scooped a rebound and beat Wickham on a tough-angle shoot to make it 4-4 at 14:33 of the third.
Fantoni found Johnston in front less than three minutes later to give Lehigh a 5-4 advantage. After seven minutes without a goal, Fantoni beat Wickham to make it 6-4. A sensational individual effort from senior Cameron Lao-Gosney gave Lehigh its seventh goal at 1:26 of the third. In the fourth, it was Corbett who scored at 10:02 before setting up Johnston at 5:52 to erase any doubt.
After getting outshot 10-2 in the first, Lehigh bounced back to hold a 27-13 edge over the final three quarters to win the final tally, 29-23. The Mountain Hawks held a 24-23 edge in groundballs. After losing four-of-five faceoffs in the first quarter, Lehigh won seven of the final 11, led by junior Ryan Snyder, who won 8-of-14 with seven groundballs. Both teams were 1-of-2 on the extra man while Wickham finished with eight saves for Navy across Poillon who made six big stops.
Reigning Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week Mike Noone wreaked havoc, posting a career-high five groundballs while tying a career high with three caused turnovers. Corbett also tied a career-high four groundballs while junior Noah Molnar caused a pair of early turnovers.
Lehigh will head to Colgate next Saturday (Apr. 7) for a 2 p.m. showdown against the nationally-ranked Raiders. The Mountain Hawks return to the Ulrich Sports Complex the following Saturday (Apr. 14) against #16 Bucknell for the final home game of the season. Faceoff for Senior Night is set for 7 p.m.