BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The third-seeded and 18th nationally-ranked Lehigh men’s lacrosse team used a pair of four-goal runs and another strong defensive effort to down sixth-seeded Navy 10-6 in the Patriot League Quarterfinals on Tuesday evening at the Ulrich Sports Complex. The Mountain Hawks scored four goals in the first 5:35 of the second quarter to take a lead, than had four in a 6:09 span in the fourth to create separation, as Lehigh won its seventh straight Patriot League Tournament game. The Mountain Hawks will now play Army on Friday evening in the Patriot League Semifinals.
“That was an absolute battle,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “I give all the credit in the world to Navy. They showed up and they played their hearts out. I thought they carried the pace of play early in the game. I thought our guys responded well late in the first half and late in the game. We were fortunate enough to get the victory. It was everything that I expect when we play a service academy.”
Junior midfielder Kurtis Kaunas sparked the offense with his first-career hat trick, with all three goals coming at crucial times. He added an assist to tie a career-high four points, originally set just two games ago against Georgetown.
Junior goalie Matt Poillon was stellar between the pipes. After making no first-quarter saves, he stopped 15-of-19 over the final three quarters including seven-of-eight in the second. Lehigh outscored the Midshipmen 4-1 in that stanza to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 5-3 halftime lead.
“I didn’t necessarily think we were sharp on either end of the field to begin, so it’s good to know you have an All-American to backstop your defense when you’re not playing great,” said Cassese. “Matty put in an All-American effort tonight. I’m proud of the way he played. I thought he played loose, relaxed and looked like his All-American self.”
Three other Mountain Hawks scored a pair of goals – juniors Patrick Corbett and Dan Taylor along with sophomore Reid Weber- while senior Matt Smith added a big third-quarter goal to snap more than a 22-minute scoreless drought.
Navy came out with a vengeance, taking a 2-1 lead after one quarter of play until Lehigh scored four times in the first 5:35 of the second quarter to take a 5-2 advantage. Kaunas got Lehigh on the scoreboard in the first quarter then finished an extra man goal at 9:25 of the second to make it 5-2 which forced a Navy timeout.
The Midshipmen rallied to score three of the next four goals, including one with six seconds left in the third quarter, to pull within 6-5 after 45 minutes of play.
Kaunas came up big once again, beating Navy goalie John Connors low at 8:09 of the fourth quarter to give Lehigh an all-important two-goal lead at 7-5. That goal sparked the Mountain Hawks as Weber, Taylor and Corbett followed with goals to give Lehigh a 10-5 advantage with two minutes remaining. Corbett also had a big caused turnover as Navy was trying to clear. That led to Weber’s goal which made it 8-5 Mountain Hawks with 6:38 remaining. The Mids were in the midst of a transition opportunity looking to pull within one.
Navy’s Tucker Hull scored his third goal of the game with 1:23 left in the fourth, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Lehigh’s defense finished the evening with 12 caused turnovers including three each from senior Lukas Mikelinich and juniorDylan O’Shaughnessy. O’Shaughnessy also set a career high with four groundballs while Weber shattered his career high, scooping six.
With the win, the Mountain Hawks advance to the Patriot League Semifinals to face second-seeded Army on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Loyola hosts Colgate in the first semifinal of the day. The semifinals and championship game (set for Sunday at 1 p.m.) will be hosted by #1 overall seed and #1 nationally-ranked Loyola. All three games over the weekend will be broadcast nationally on CBS Sports Network.
“We’re on our service academy tour right now,” said Cassese. “We’re fortunate to be heading down to Baltimore to play Army again. It’s a team we know well and a team that beat us the first time around. We know what we’re in for. Every time we play Army, it’s a physical battle. It’s typically a close game. Two great defenses; they’re number one in the country and we’re number one. We need to learn from this one and get ready for the next one on the schedule which happens to be Army on Friday night.”