WEST POINT, N.Y. – Senior Brian Hess paced the offense with his second-career hat trick while sophomore Matt Poillon made 12 saves between the pipes as the #15/16 Lehigh men’s lacrosse team topped Army 10-6 in its league opener Saturday. Five Mountain Hawks (5-3, 1-0 Patriot League) finished with double-figure points, and senior Ryan Snyder was stellar at the faceoff X, to help Lehigh get off to an early lead which it wouldn’t relinquish.
“It was a good effort,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “We really needed to control the middle of the field which is always tough against an Army team who prides themselves in the same thing. We really focused on groundballs and faceoffs. Looking at the stats at the end of the game, we had a plus 16 advantage in groundballs and 14-6 edge at the faceoff X. That was a big difference in the game, especially in the first half which allowed us to build the lead.”
Senior David DiMaria posted three points (one goal, two assists) while classmate Alex Drake had two goals. Senior Dante Fantoni and sophomore Dan Taylor each finished with a goal and assist. The midfield scored six of Lehigh’s 10 goals on the afternoon.
“I commend the midfield production today,” said Cassese. “We’ve been attack heavy so getting six goals from the midfield is huge. All the midfielders really stepped up today.”
Senior Baxter Lanius posted a career-high five groundballs while sophomore had three groundballs and a caused turnover. Snyder finished 13-of-17 at the faceoff X with seven groundballs as the Mountain Hawks controlled possession, especially in the first half. Army could only muster seven first-half shots.
“Beating Army in general on the road is a tough thing to do,” said Cassese. “They play great at home and protect their home turf. Everything that we do as a team will revolve around the Patriot League. Before you talk about postseason or championships, you have to go 1-0 and start off on the right foot. To do that today was very important for us.”
Lehigh scored first at 12:08 of the first quarter when Fantoni found Hess, who fired it into an open net as Army goalie Sam Somers was caught out of position. Sophomore Patrick Corbett made it 2-0 (from Taylor) at 3:51, but the Black Knight’s John Glesener scored his first of a team-high three goals with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter.
DiMaria and Drake gave Lehigh a 4-1 lead midway through the second quarter before Glesener cut it to 4-2, but unassisted tallies from DiMaria and Fantoni gave the Mountain Hawks a 6-2 advantage at the half.
Army scored three of the four third-quarter goals to pull within 7-5 after 45 minutes of play. Included was the only goal from All-American and leading goal-scorer Garrett Thul, who was blanketed by Souders all afternoon. Thul’s lone goal came on the extra man.
The Mountain Hawks responded by scoring three of the four goals in the fourth quarter to win their Patriot League opener for a third straight season. Taylor started at 13:13 before Hess scored his second of the game at 9:17. Glesener scored his hat trick goal (from Thul) at 6:11, but Hess erased any doubt with his third of the game at 1:17.
Lehigh held the final edge in shots (34-29) and in groundballs (37-21). Poillon’s 12 saves came across Somers, who made seven. Army was 1-for-6 on the extra man while the Mountain Hawks were 0-for-5.
Lehigh returns home Wednesday to host #19 UMass in a nationally-televised showdown on ESPNU. Opening faceoff is set for 6 p.m.
“Wednesday is a huge test for us,” said Cassese. “It’s another top quality opponent, an NCAA Tournament team from a year ago. They’re starting to get healthy. We’re looking forward to getting back home and putting our best foot forward against a quality opponent.”