BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Junior Dante Fantoni rifled a shot past Kyle Feeney with just 14 seconds remaining to give the #11 Lehigh men’s lacrosse team a thrilling 9-8 win over #18 Bucknell in front of a facility-record 2,096 fans on Saturday night. The Mountain Hawks (11-2, 4-1 Patriot League) continually fought back from deficits until Fantoni’s goal put Lehigh up for good. Fantoni and senior Roman Lao-Gosney led the way, each posting a team-high two goals and an assist.
With the win, the Mountain Hawks go into the final weekend of play with a chance for the Patriot League Regular Season Title, the #1 overall seed, and with it, the opportunity to host the entire league tournament. Lehigh will now need Bucknell (9-5, 3-2 PL) to beat Colgate Friday night with a chance for the top seed. That game will air live on CBS Sports Network at 7 p.m.
“We have a very resilient group,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “These guys have battled all year long. We didn’t play our best in the first half; we didn’t really play our best all night, but we battled for it. A year ago we wouldn’t have come up with those small plays – a ground ball here or a faceoff win there. This year we did and it’s a sign of maturity.”
Lehigh erased a 5-3 halftime deficit by scoring the only three goals of the third quarter to take its first lead of the game at 6-5. The Bison promptly took leads of 7-6 and 8-7, but the Mountain Hawks wouldn’t give up. Juniors Ryan Snyder and Fantoni each scored in the final 3:52 to pull off their first win over Bucknell since 2006 (snapping a six-game losing streak).
“There was never a doubt that these guys could come back and win the game, and that goes back to the leadership and maturity of the team,” said Cassese.
The facility record 2,096 fans shattered the previous mark of 1,645 originally set on Apr. 20, 2008 against Notre Dame. The Ulrich Sports Complex seats 1,200 fans, with nearly 1,000 standing along the fence and around the entire width of the field.
Cameron Lao-Gosney also excelled with a goal and two assists on his Senior Night while Snyder, juniors David DiMaria and Kyle Stiefel, and freshman Patrick Corbett added goals as well. Snyder was stellar at the faceoff X as well, winning 13-of-18 with five groundballs. Junior Mike Noone posted a career-high six groundballs and four caused turnovers, wreaking havoc all night long.
After Bucknell’s Billy Eisenreich scored a tough-angle goal to make it 8-7 with 4:07 to play, Snyder came right back with a goal just 15 seconds later, scooping a groundball off a scrum and promptly beating Kyle Feeney to even the score at eight. The Bison gained possession off the ensuing draw, but Noone caused one of his many key turnovers to give Lehigh possession.
Following a pair of timeouts, the Mountain Hawks held for a final shot. Cameron Lao-Gosney eventually found Fantoni at a tough angle, who promptly beat Feeney high over the right shoulder to put the crowd into a frenzy.
“We really wanted this game badly,” said Fantoni. “We had a great play at the end and I was able to capitalize on it. My teammates played great all night. I have to give credit to our defense again and our offense made the most of its possessions.”
Snyder won the ensuing faceoff to seal the victory, the Mountain Hawks’ sixth over a nationally-ranked foe this season. The win is Lehigh’s 11th of the season to pull within one of the school-record 12 set in 1994.
The teams traded goals in the first quarter, which ended with a Cameron Lao-Gosney score with time winding down. The Bison promptly scored twice in the first five minutes of the second stanza to take a 4-2 advantage. The Mountain Hawks then ended a 13:59 scoreless drought when DiMaria finished a sensational individual effort to make it 4-3. However, like Lehigh did in the first, Bucknell’s Chase Bailey took an Eisenreich feed in front and beat freshman goalie Matt Poillon to make it 5-3 at the half.
The Mountain Hawks came out of halftime on fire, as Stiefel netted a goal at 12:22 before Fantoni finished his first of the night at 7:13. Corbett later took a great feed from Fantoni and beat Feeney high to make it 6-5 with just over one minute remaining in the third.
Bucknell ended a 15:19 scoreless drought with a man-up goal at 14:43 of the fourth then retook a 7-6 advantage at the 8:52 mark. Roman Lao-Gosney and Eisenreich traded goals, leading into Snyder’s goal and Fantoni’s heroics.
Lehigh led the final shot count, 36-24 and in groundballs, 25-19. Bucknell was 1-for-6 on the extra man while the Mountain Hawks were 0-for-2. Lehigh had 15 turnovers to the Bison’s nine; the Mountain Hawks were relentless defensively, causing all nine of their turnovers led by Noone’s four. Poillon finished with eight saves across Feeney, who made nine.
The Mountain Hawks wrap up the regular season at Lafayette next Saturday (Apr. 21). Opening faceoff is set for 2 p.m.