March 30, 2012

Still Streaking: Lehigh Downs Navy for Ninth Straight Win

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Freshman Patrick Corbett had a game-high three goals to help Lehigh offset the loss of leading scorer David DiMaria in a 9-4 win over Navy.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Facing a Navy team on a roll and on the cusp of the top 20 figured to be a formidable task for no. 7 Lehigh playing at full strength. But the Mountain Hawks took the field on Friday night at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium without their leading scorer, since junior attackman David DiMaria had been suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

Then, the Mountain Hawks went out and showed why they own the highest victory total and longest winning streak in the nation, while Navy looked like a squad with a whole lot of room for improvement.

Lehigh freshman attackman Patrick Corbett scored a game-high three goals and added one assist. The Mountain Hawks scored the game’s final eight goals. And the Lehigh defense shut out Navy over the game’s final 42 minutes.

The lopsided result was a 9-4 whipping that affirmed Lehigh as a team to reckon with in 2012. The Mountain Hawks (10-1, 3-0 Patriot League) won their ninth consecutive game – and second straight over Navy and first in Annapolis since 1913 – while snapping Navy’s four-game winning streak. The Mids (5-4, 3-2 PL) produced their lowest scoring output of the season.

The Mountain Hawks were a bit shaky early, as Navy bolted to a 3-1 lead with a three-goal spurt over 1:18 in the middle of the first quarter and controlled possession for about 12 minutes of the period. The Mids then extended their advantage to 4-1 on an extra-man goal by leading scorer Tucker Hull three minutes into the second quarter.

And that literally was it for the Navy offense. The Mids, who managed one score in the game’s last 54 minutes, gradually fell apart amidst a wave of turnovers, bad decisions and missed shots in close. Their frustration was evident in the face of a Lehigh defense that cut off dodging and passing lanes relentlessly and locked down the crease area.

Nowhere was that more indicative than the final tallies for Hull and fellow sophomore attackman Sam Jones. They entered the contest with a combined 94 points. They finished a combined 1-for-6. Jones took only two shots in his scoreless evening.

And the Navy defense, especially its short-stick midfielders, could not contain Lehigh, which got two goals from senior midfielder Adam Johnston and a goal each from four other sources. Lehigh solved Navy quite nicely, even without DiMaria, who leads the team in goals (16) and assists (17) and likely will return next week against Colgate.

“It was long week for everybody within our family. I give our guys credit for coming together and practicing very well,” Cassese said. “I give David a lot of credit, because he gave us a scout team look at Tucker Hull. Our guys really believe in each other. They’ll do anything for each other. I [told] them before the game that it doesn’t matter who’s here and who’s not.

“You don’t replace David. What you do is come together and try to hit a lot of singles and doubles instead of trying to hit home runs. I thought we struggled with that early, but in the second half we really got back to that.”

Meanwhile, Navy got away from everything it did right in the first quarter, when it out-shot Lehigh, 10-2 by dominating time of possession. But there were trouble signs, as attackman Taylor Reynolds twice missed the cage in the opening seconds on point-blank shots. Later in the first half, Navy failed on two other layup attempts that Lehigh goalie Matthew Poillon ate up easily.

By halftime, Navy had a 16-11 lead in shots, but was clinging to a 4-3 advantage after putting just eight shots on goal.   

“The first half, we had a lot of open looks. The crease was a lot more open,” Reynolds said. “The second half, we couldn’t get into any flow offensively. Their defense is very frustrating to play against.”

“We thought we had cracked the code, but [Lehigh] had an answer for everything we tried to do,” Navy coach Rick Sowell said. “They’re big. They’re athletic. They slide quickly. It just seemed like every time we tried to go to the goal, there were someone there.”

In the second half, Lehigh dominated possession and put Navy down convincingly. Corbett, who finished the first-half scoring with a put-back, started the second half with an extra-man goal off another rebound, following a save by R.J. Wickham (eight saves). That tied the game at 4-4 with 14:33 left in the quarter.

The Mountain Hawks were on their way after that. Over the rest of the quarter, Johnston, attackman Dante Fantoni and midfielder Cameron Lao-Gosney beat defenders easily and scored to make it 7-4. Corbett completed his hat trick five minutes into the fourth quarter to extend the Lehigh lead to 8-4.


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