BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team scored five second-quarter goals to take a 7-6 lead at the half, but the Mountain Hawks only scored once the rest of the way and Bucknell took advantage as the Bison pulled out a 9-8 overtime victory on Saturday at the Ulrich Sports Complex. Senior Dan Taylor led the offense with three goals and an assist while all six starting midfielders and attackmen tallied at least one point. With the loss, Lehigh falls to 2-3 and 1-2 in the Patriot League while the Bison improve to 3-2 and 2-1 in league play.
“I thought Bucknel did a great job; they deserved to win today,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “They definitely won a lot of the 50-50 wars in the middle and picked up a lot of tough groundballs. It was unfortunate. It’s something that we try and pride ourselves on around here. They definitely brought the fight to us today. We just didn’t have enough in the end to make it happen.”
Taylor finished with four or more points for the fifth time in as many games this season. The hat trick was his fourth this season and 18th of his career. Junior Billy Oppenheimer added three points (one goal, two assists) while senior Alan Henderson dished two assists. Freshman Nolan Apers scored a career-high two goals.
Defensively, junior Casey Eidenshink had four groundballs and a big caused turnover in overtime to give the Mountain Hawks the ball. That led to a great opportunity from Oppenheimer which was stopped by Bucknell goalie Sam Grinberg.
Both goaltenders were sensational as Grinberg made 14 stops while Poillon tied a season-high 16 saves for a second straight week.
“Matt has been playing great of late, feeling good,” said Cassese. “That’s obviously a major bonus for us, having a guy we can rely on back there. But in the end, we just played a little bit too much defense. In overtime, they got the stop and we didn’t.”
The Bison took a quick 2-0 lead less than five minutes into the game, but the Mountain Hawks had an answer. Apers took a feed from Taylor and scored an extra-man goal at 5:58 to get Lehigh on the board. Just over four minutes later, senior Sam Lawrence scored his first goal of the season, corralling a loose ball after a save and beating Grinberg to tie the score late in the first quarter.
Bucknell answered just 45 seconds later, but the Mountain Hawks’ offense came alive in the second quarter. Oppenheimer scored the first goal of the stanza then assisted on the second (a Taylor goal) to give the Mountain Hawks their first lead, 4-3. Bucknell evened the score at 6:54, but Lehigh scored three of the next four goals as Apers’ second of the game made it 7-5 Lehigh with 47 seconds on the second-quarter clock. The Bison scored with seven seconds on the clock to pull within 7-6 at the half.
The second half turned extremely defensive. Bucknell’s Tommy O’Connor evened the score at 8:45 of the third quarter, but Taylor had an answer just over three minutes later, finishing a nifty move from behind the goal on a delayed penalty to make it 8-7.
Bucknell evened the score at 8-8 with 26 seconds left in the third quarter, but neither team could score the go-ahead goal in a fourth quarter that featured just 13 combined shots and 12 turnovers. Poillon came up with two big saves in the final minute to preserve the tie and force overtime.
Eidenshink came up with a big caused turnover in overtime, which classmate Tripp Telesco scooped up to give Lehigh possession. The Mountain Hawks had a golden opportunity on a feed to Oppenheimer in front of the goal, but Grinberg made the stop, setting up Ryan Joseph for his third goal of the game. It was the first goal scored by either side in 19:17 and gave Bucknell the victory.
Final shots were 37-33 in favor of the Bison while the Mountain Hawks held a 31-27 edge in groundballs. Lehigh turned the ball over 19 times to 15 for Bucknell. The Bison won 11-of-21 faceoffs on the afternoon.
The Mountain Hawks return to action at #19 Villanova on Tuesday (7 p.m.) before heading to Navy next Saturday (Mar. 14).
“This is spring break for us,” said Cassese. “Hopefully we can get everybody’s undivided attention here and focus in on how we can get better and right the ship. There were a lot of good things out there today too, so we’ll focus on that and we’ll also focus on how to get better in the film room tomorrow and hopefully put a better effort together for Tuesday night.”