EASTON, Pa. – The #12/10 Lehigh men’s lacrosse team dominated from the opening whistle and wouldn’t look back as the Mountain Hawks (12-2, 5-1 Patriot League) downed Lafayette, 16-6, in their regular season finale Saturday. With the victory, Lehigh enters next weekend’s Patriot League Tournament winners of 11 of their last 12 games. The 12 wins have tied a school record – previously accomplished in 1994 – while the five league wins have set a new school mark.
“The guys did a really nice job of making sure they were ready to play,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “I give a lot of credit to our senior class. We started several seniors today. We hit a lull there in the second quarter, but they really responded in the third which was the difference in the game.”
The second-seeded Mountain Hawks will face #3 Army in the Patriot League Semifinals on Friday at 8 p.m. The entire tournament will take place at top-seeded Colgate, who will host #4 Bucknell in the first semifinal of the day at 5 p.m. CBS Sports Network will broadcast the entire tournament concluding with the championship game on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Lehigh’s offense was led by a trio of attackmen who combined for 12 of the squad’s season-high 16 goals on Saturday. Senior Kevin Donovan Jr. sparked the offense, shattering a career high with five goals, all coming in the second half with four in a 7:59 span of the third quarter. The five goals marked the most by any Lehigh player since Feb. 12, 2011 when junior Dante Fantoni also had five against Saint Joseph’s.
Fantoni tied a career high with six points and three assists while adding three goals for his 13th-career hat trick. Senior Adam Johnston also posted a career-high six points via four goals and two assists, burying all four of his shot opportunities.
Freshman Alan Henderson added a career-high three points via a goal and two assists while senior Cameron Lao-Gosney, junior Kyle Stiefel and freshman Patrick Corbett scored goals as well. Freshman goalie Matt Poillon made 10 saves over the first three quarters before being relieved by senior Conor Murphy, who posted four. Poillon only allowed four goals, the seventh time this season he’s allowed four or fewer. Poillon’s GAA is down to an even 6.00 while his save percentage improved to 61.7 percent.
Junior Ryan Snyder was strong at the faceoff X, winning 9-of-15 with seven groundballs while sophomore Ryan Buttenbaum also added four faceoff wins and four groundballs. Defensively, sophomore Ty Souders scooped a career-high five groundballs while junior defensive midfielder Noah Molnar had three caused turnovers.
“I challenged our guys to score in the teens in this game,” said Cassese. “We hadn’t been up there in a long time. We’ve put a major emphasis on our transition game and we had a few there today. That gave us good momentum.
“In the Patriot League, everyone knows each other very well,” he continued. “A big difference is who can capitalize in transition opportunities. I’m happy to see we stepped up in that area today.”
Lao-Gosney got the scoring started just 1:29 into the game. After Fantoni made it 2-0, John Floyd got Lafayette (3-10, 1-5) on the board at the 6:46 mark. However, the Mountain Hawks answered with six straight goals, including three in a 22 second span early in the second; Fantoni scored at 9:39, followed by Johnston at 9:26 and Henderson at 9:17.
The Leopards scored three straight bridging the end of the first half and beginning of the second to pull within 8-4. But that’s when the seniors took over. Johnston made it 9-4 before Donovan scored a natural hat trick (plus one), posting goals at 9:52, 5:11, 2:39 and 1:53, to make it 13-4 after three quarters of play.
Lafayette scored two in the first 1:56 of the fourth quarter, but Stiefel, Johnston and Donovan added late tallies to give Lehigh its first double-digit win since Feb. 25 against Manhattan.
Lehigh held a 45-36 edge in shots, while the Leopards won the groundball battle, 45-36. The combination of Snyder and Buttenbaum won 13-of-25 faceoffs. The Mountain Hawks were 0-for-2 on man-up while Lafayette was 1-for-4. Poillon and Murphy combined for 14 saves across Jake Hyatt, who posted10 for the Leopards.
The Mountain Hawks now look ahead to the Patriot League Tournament next weekend, hosted by Colgate. Lehigh will begin with third-seeded Army at 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. The championship game is set for Sunday at 3 p.m.
“Right now, we’re going to do everything we’ve been doing for the entire year,” said Cassese. “Focus on one game at a time; we’re hoping for a one-game winning streak. Our focus is the Army Cadets; we know it’ll be an absolute battle Friday night. Our game in the regular season went down to the wire and we expect a very similar game – physical and highly competitive.”