UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – After falling behind 2-0, the #11/10 Lehigh men’s lacrosse team bounced back in a big way, scoring nine of the final 12 goals to down #17 Penn State (3-4, 0-1 CAA), 9-5 on Tuesday night. Junior Dante Fantoni got the scoring started with two of Lehigh’s (8-1, 1-0 Patriot League) first three goals while also adding two second-half assists to help the Mountain Hawks pull away.
The defense allowed three goals over the final 55:24 to solidify Lehigh’s seventh straight victory, its longest winning streak since 1969. Four of the wins have come over ranked squads (Penn, UNC, Yale and Penn State) while the Mountain Hawks’ 8-1 record marks their best start since that same ’69 season.
Lehigh also snapped a 14-game losing streak against Penn State, defeating the Nittany Lions for the first time since 1971.
“I give our guys a lot of credit,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “I thought they did a tremendous job of dealing with all the elements – three hour bus ride here, going to class this morning and dealing with all that comes with playing at Penn State. I was really impressed with our guys. I thought they handled it all very well. I was concerned after a tough battle on Saturday against Army that we might be tired in the fourth quarter, but we were anything but that. They truly gutted out this win.
“The thing I’m most impressed with is we’re 5-0 on the road,” Cassese continued. “We’ve played in some pretty tough environments and this was no different.”
Seniors Roman Lao-Gosney and Adam Johnston added a pair of goals while junior David DiMaria posted three points (one goal, two assists). Freshman Matt Poillon was stellar once again between the pipes, making 10 stops.
Lehigh’s defense continued to dominate in causing 11 of Penn State’s 13 turnovers, led by three from junior Noah Molnar. Junior Mike Noone also caused two turnovers while scooping a career-high four groundballs. Sophomore Jimmy Cahill had three groundballs and two caused turnovers to impress at defensive midfield.
The Nittany Lions scored two quick goals, both within the first 4:36 before Fantoni sparked the offense with a rocket of a shot, beating Penn State goalie Austin Kaut high off a nice feed from DiMaria, to make it 2-1 at 7:23.
Penn State took a 2-1 lead into the second before Roman Lao-Gosney took a feed from DiMaria and beat Kaut on the man-up at the 14:47 mark. Fantoni finished another nice individual move at 10:46 to make it 3-2, but Nick Dolik ended a 19:46 scoreless drought to tie it at three with 5:38 remaining in the second.
Freshman Patrick Corbett broke the tie at 9:21 of the third, making it 4-3. Two man-up goals from Johnston and Roman Lao-Gosney made it 6-3 after three quarters of play.
DiMaria netted a goal just 11 seconds into the fourth, before the sides traded goals the rest of the way. Johnston scored his second man-up goal and Lehigh’s fourth of the game, at 3:27 to make it 8-4 before Matthew Mackrides answered 16 seconds later. However, Molnar ended any doubt at 2:12, good for the 9-5 final.
Penn State held the final edge in shots, 30-28 and groundballs, 22-20. The Nittany Lions controlled the faceoff X, winning 13-of-17. Poillon finished with 10 saves while Kaut had nine for Penn State.
The Mountain Hawks will return home to begin a five-game stretch against Patriot League opponents as they host Holy Cross on Saturday. Opening faceoff is set for 1 p.m.