LEXINGTON, Va. – Lehigh’s defense continued to dominate while the offense contributed more than enough goals to lead the #16/15 Mountain Hawks to a 6-2 win at VMI Tuesday. The victory marks Lehigh’s fourth in a row, the squad’s longest winning streak since 2006. The Mountain Hawks took an early 2-0 lead before holding the Keydets scoreless for the next 45:33 until a late fourth-quarter score pulled VMI within four at the final horn.
“I want to give a lot of credit to VMI,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “They played really hard. They’re an impressive team. They had some good athletes, some good individuals in certain spots. I thought their faceoff guy did a nice job and their goaltender played exceptionally well.”
Lehigh has allowed only 14 goals over its four-game winning streak (3.5 average), with eight coming at #4 North Carolina. The Mountain Hawks have only allowed 18 goals over their five wins this season (3.6 average), which includes four games of four goals or less. Lehigh’s 5-1 record after six games is the squad’s best start since 1997.
“Give credit to our defense; they won us this game,” Cassese continued. “VMI has some good offensive weapons, so I was impressed with our defense. On the other side of it, our offense didn’t show up today. I want to give VMI credit; they played well. Our offense had a ton of opportunities and ton of shots, but didn’t cash in.”
Freshman and reigning Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week Matt Poillon continued to impress, making 10 stops between the pipes, good for his second-career game with double-digit saves. Junior Mike Noone was strong at close defense, posting two groundballs, a caused turnover and his first-career point (an assist).
“Matt was excellent,” said Cassese. “He was the backstop for us. We were giving up savable shots and he made those savable shots looks easy. I’m impressed with Matt; he did an excellent job and continues to play at a high level.”
Senior Roman Lao-Gosney led the offense with a pair of goals, including the first two of the second half to turn a 3-1 lead into a 5-1 advantage. Junior David DiMaria dished two assists while Dante Fantoni scored a goal to extend his point streak to 31 straight games dating back to 2010.
Freshman Dan Taylor opened the scoring just 1:03 in before junior Kyle Stiefel netted his team-leading fifth man up goal of the season at 7:21 to make it 2-0.
VMI got on the board just 1:28 later via a Draius Mills score, but the Mountain Hawks’ defense clamped down from that point forward. Freshman Kurt Kaunas added some insurance with only three minutes remaining in the first, an extra man goal to make it 3-1 after one quarter of play.
The sides played through a scoreless second quarter which saw VMI goalie J. Rice make four saves while the Keydets were held without a shot on goal. Lao-Gosney then caught fire early in the third, scoring an unassisted goal at 12:15 before finishing a feed from his twin brother Cameron at 9:16.
That made it 5-1, which stood until 6:01 of the fourth when Fantoni beat Rice for a five-goal advantage. Drew Leonard ended VMI’s scoreless drought at 5:20 of the fourth to make it 6-2 at the final horn.
A pair of Inside Lacrosse Preseason All-Americans squared off at the faceoff X as junior Ryan Snyder won 5-of-12 against VMI’s Stephen Robarge, who entered with a stellar 62.4 win percentage. Snyder and Roman Lao-Gosney tied for the team high with three groundballs.
Lehigh held the final edge in shots (37-26) while VMI had a 24-20 advantage in groundballs. The Mountain Hawks were a perfect 15-of-15 on clears to the Keydets’ 15-of-16. Lehigh was 2-for-2 on man up opportunities while VMI was 0-for-2.
Lehigh returns home Sunday (1 p.m.) to host #15/16 Yale in a nationally-ranked showdown. The Mountain Hawks then remain home to host Army on Saturday (Mar. 17) at 1 p.m. in their Patriot League opener.
“Unfortunately, our guys were looking ahead too much to Yale and not looking to the task at hand at VMI,” said Cassese. “That was unfortunate. Looking ahead now, we can put this one behind us. It’s going to be an intense battle [Sunday]. These guys have had our number for years. Last year, they gave us a beat down in New Haven. We’ll need to get back to work over spring break and come out with a complete 60-minute effort to get this one on Sunday.”