VILLANOVA, Pa. – No. 10 Villanova (1-0, 0-0) scored ten unanswered second half goals en route to a 17-7 victory over Lehigh (1-1, 0-0) on Saturday afternoon at Ulrich Sports Complex. 11 different Wildcats posted points as Villanova claimed their first win at Lehigh since the 2003 season.
The triumph also marks the largest margin of victory over an opponent in a season opener since Feb. 24th, 2002 in a 19-7 win over St. Joseph’s.
Senior Kevin Cunningham (Garden City, N.Y./Kellenberg) led the offensive effort with five goals and two assists, while junior Will Casertano (Millbrook, N.Y./Salisbury School) and sophomore Kevin O’Neil (Cockysville, Md./Boys’ Latin) posted five points apiece. Senior goalkeeper Dan Gutierrez (Chevy Chase, Md./Georgetown Prep) made 12 saves in his season debut.
“Can’t think of a much better way to start the year,” says Head Coach Mike Corrado, “Kevin Cunningham had a great game scoring seven points and five goals. Croonquist played really well against a good face-off team, winning three-quarters of his takes and [Dan] Gutierrez had a solid game in goal for us. All in all, it was a great opener”
The Wildcats held Lehigh scoreless for 36:37 – the longest scoring drought Villanova has held its opponents to since facing Delaware on April 9th, 2011, where they stifled a Blue Hen offense for 42:36.
Corrado continues, “We had eight different guys score goals and 11 point scorers today. I give a lot of credit to our upperclassmen and we showed a lot of depth. This game is a terrific way to lead into our home opener against Bucknell next weekend.”
Villanova wasted no time getting on the scoreboard when senior Matt Bell (Severna Park, Md./St. Mary’s) notched the season opening point from classmate C.J. Small (San Diego, Calif./La Costa Canyon) just 2:11 into the contest, but the Mountain Hawks were quick to respond when Roman Lao-Gosney found an opening just under three minutes later to tie the game at 1-1.
The Wildcats retaliated as Cunningham posted two quick goals at the 8:20 and 4:36 marks to put VU up 3-1, then continued their scoring run with a total of six unanswered goals from O’Neil, Small, Casertano and junior Jack Rice (Baltimore, Md./Boys’ Latin) to give Villanova a 7-1 lead going into the second quarter.
The Mountain Hawks battled back, posting two man-up goals within 16 seconds from Dan Taylor and Kyle Stiefel at the 10:33 and 10:17 marks, while Noah Molnar followed up to get Lehigh to within three at 7-4 with 8:23 remaining in the half.
VU’s Cunningham and Casertano responded just 2:19 later, giving the Wildcats a comfortable 9-4 lead going into halftime. At the break, Villanova led Lehigh 16-13 in shots on goal while LU found the 17-13 advantage in ground balls.
Coming out of the locker room, a breakout third quarter rally clearly favored the Villanova offense with Cunningham posting two goals, while Casertano, Small and senior CJ Burke (Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic) each attributing one notch apiece. O’Neil stole the show in the stanza and dished out three of his four assists while Small and junior Nick Doherty (Bernardsville, N.J./Delbarton) provided the additional helps to close out the quarter 14-4 in favor of the Wildcats.
Villanova would continue their scoring streak in the final 15 minutes with Rice, Casertano and senior Michael Vigilante (Masspequa, N.Y./Massapequa) rounding out the Villanova effort for the day to close out the match. Lehigh would score the final three goals finalize the game at 17-7 in favor of VU.
Villanova capitalized on their opportunities, cashing in on six-of-nine extra-man chances. The Mountain Hawks were man down for a total of 8:30 compared to only 2:30 from Villanova. Additionally, Villanova dominated in the final shot count, 40-31 while the ground ball count favored Lehigh, 33-25.
Defensively, VU’s Gutierrez and Lehigh’s Matthew Poillon each posted 12 stops for the day while sophomore LSM John LoCascio (Fairfield, N.J./West Essex Regional) picked up four ground balls to lead the Villanova effort.
The 10th ranked Wildcats will be back in action to host their home opener a week from today against No. 12 Bucknell in Villanova Stadium. Game time is scheduled for Noon at Villanova University.