BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The #11/10 Lehigh men’s lacrosse team jumped out to a 5-0 lead and wouldn’t look back in downing Holy Cross, 12-3 on Saturday for its school-record eighth straight win. With the victory, the Mountain Hawks improve to 9-1 on the season (2-0 in the Patriot League), currently owning the most wins in the nation, while setting a school record for their best start in school history. Junior David DiMaria spearheaded the offense with seven points, including a career-high four goals to go with three assists.
“I thought we had a nice start today, going up 4-0 in the first quarter,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “I really challenged our guys since that’s been our weakest quarter all season. To come up and put up a four-spot in the first quarter is impressive. It showed our guys were ready to play today and they weren’t looking past anything or anyone.”
Lehigh improves to 2-0 in league play for the first time since 1999. The Mountain Hawks have won eight straight games following a 17-7 loss to #10 Villanova in their home opener Feb. 18.
DiMaria sparked the offense with the game’s first three goals, while adding another in the second quarter and dishing three assists over the game’s final 32:34. Freshman Patrick Corbett tied a career-high four points while setting a career-high two assists. Junior Dante Fantoni added a goal and assist to extend his point streak to 35 straight games, dating back to his freshman season.
“I was proud of our guys’ effort,” said Cassese. “I thought David had an exceptional game; he really set the tone. He had the first three goals and four of our first six. We’re asking David to be our quarterback and that’s what a quarterback does; he steps up when the team needs him and we certainly needed him today.”
The story continued to be the defense, which allowed five goals or fewer for the sixth time this season. Lehigh held Holy Cross scoreless for the game’s first 24:10, then for the game’s final 22:35 as well, in yet another dominant effort. The Mountain Hawks caused nine of the Crusaders’ 17 turnovers, led by two from sophomore Ty Souders.
Freshman Matt Poillon continued to excel in goal, stopping seven-of-10 before being relieved by sophomore Griffin Farha in the final minutes. That included a number of sensational point-blank stops. Poillon’s save percentage is up to a stellar 62.6 while his goals against average lowered to 5.57, both among the nation’s best.
DiMaria single-handedly gave Lehigh a 2-0 lead with a pair of unassisted goals, at 11:52 and 8:01. He made it 3-0 when he finished a pass from Corbett at the 1:44 mark before Fantoni scored his first just 17 seconds later, off an unsettled situation.
Sophomore Matt Smith took a Fantoni pass and rocketed a shot past Holy Cross goalie Kenny O’Connor at 10:35 of the second quarter before the teams traded goals heading into halftime with Lehigh on top, 7-2.
Corbett scored his second straight just 1:04 into the third quarter to help set the tone. Senior Adam Johnston then netted his team-leading seventh man-up goal of the season at 7:34 before Holy Cross’ John Hannan scored just nine seconds later. However, freshman Alan Henderson took a feed from DiMaria at 1:59 and finished his first-career goal to make it 10-3 after three quarters of play.
Junior Brian Hess and freshman Dan Taylor added goals in the fourth, good for the 12-3 final.
Lehigh dominated the final shot count, 48-18 and groundballs, 43-23. The Mountain Hawks won 14-of-19 faceoffs, led by 11-of-16 (and seven groundballs) from junior Ryan Snyder. Freshman Ryan Buttenbaum was a perfect 3-of-3 at the X. Lehigh was 2-for-2 on the extra man to Holy Cross’ 0-for-2. Poillon’s seven saves came across O’Connor, who had 10.
“We’re taking it one game at a time,” said Cassese. “I’m certainly proud of what our players have been able to do and what our juniors and seniors have been able to put forward in the leadership category. It all comes back to that in the end. We didn’t play our best today, but we played well enough to win. We played good defense and offensively, we had a few players step up to carry the win.”
The Mountain Hawks will next travel to Navy on Friday for a nationally-televised showdown on CBS Sports Network. Opening faceoff is set for 7 p.m. in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.