Top of the Mountain: Lehigh Headed to NCAA's
from press release
Dante Fantoni earned Patriot League Tournament MVP honors after leading Lehigh to its first NCAA tournament berth.
© Greg Wall
HAMILTON, N.Y. - The eighth-ranked and
second-seeded Lehigh men’s lacrosse team put together one of
its strongest offensive outbursts of the season, tying a
season-high 16 goals to beat the #10 Colgate Raiders, 16-14 and win
its first-ever Patriot League Tournament Championship on Sunday.
The Mountain Hawks (14-2) jumped out to a 5-0 lead then held off a
Raiders’ (12-3) charge to earn the league’s automatic
bid to the NCAA Tournament. Junior Dante Fantoni earned Tournament
MVP honors after posting nine points over the two games (five
goals, four assists).
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “I am so incredibly happy for our seniors, for our captains, for our upperclassmen and for the entire Lehigh Lacrosse family. It’s been a work in progress and a long time coming. We’ve been thinking and dreaming about this day for a long time.
“We wake up this morning and here it is right in front of us,” Cassese continued. “All we have to do is go out and play a full four quarters to win a championship. I’m so proud of our guys; they showed up, were resilient and got the job done.”
Fantoni scored three goals and added two assists, including Lehigh’s 15th goal which proved to be the difference. The victory gave the Mountain Hawks their first league tournament title (Lehigh won the Patriot League in 1999 before there was a tournament) and first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament. The team will find out its fate at the Selection Show next Sunday evening.
Three different Mountain Hawks posted hat tricks in the highest scoring game in Patriot League Tournament history. Junior David DiMaria added a team-high five points (three goals, two assists) while classmate Brian Hess scored three goals for his first-career hat trick.
Senior Roman Lao-Gosney and freshman Dan Taylor added two goals as well, with Taylor netting two of the game’s first three.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Fantoni. “It shows all our hard work paid off. From day one, this was our mission. Throughout the season, we knew we could do it.”
The defense contained a potent Raiders’ offense in the first quarter, shutting them out for the game’s first 17:30 before Colgate exploded from that point forward. The nation’s leading scorer Peter Baum led the way with his second straight nine-point game (three goals, six assists), setting a tournament record for points on Friday before tying it again today. But in the end, Lehigh continued to have an answer. Colgate pulled as close as 6-5 late in the second quarter, but wouldn’t get any closer than two again (13-11 then 16-14 at the final horn).
Sophomore defenseman Lukas Mikelinich posted a career-high five groundballs along with a caused turnover while Ty Souders had a groundball, two caused turnovers and his first-career goal. Junior Mike Noone also posted three groundballs and two caused turnovers after two groundballs and three caused turnovers in Friday’s Semifinal win vs. Army. That earned Noone a spot on the All-Tournament team, along with DiMaria and junior Ryan Snyder. Fantoni was named Tournament MVP.
With the win, Lehigh also became the first school in Patriot League history to win the football championship along with the men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse tournament titles in the same academic year.
A game of runs saw the Mountain Hawks score the game’s first five goals before Colgate mounted a charge. Taylor got it started with a blast into the top corner of the cage, making it 1-0 at the 12:43 mark. After almost eight minutes of scoreless action, senior Blaise Fullen capitalized on a transition opportunity, taking a feed from freshman Alan Henderson and beating Colgate goalie Jared Madison at the 4:44 mark.
The Mountain Hawks scored three more, from Taylor, Fantoni and DiMaria to make it 5-0 just 59 seconds into the second quarter.
“That was a big key for us,” said Cassese. “We knew we needed to start quickly. If their offense got rolling early, it could’ve been a long day for us. We came out hot out of the gate and forced them to play from behind, at least a little while before they caught up pretty quickly.”
Colgate mounted a charge, scoring three straight in a 30-second span (at 12:30, 12:05 and 12:00), but Souders scored his first-career goal at the 10:10 mark, a man-down goal off an odd-man break, to make it 6-3. The Raiders came right back with two consecutive, but again, Lehigh had an answer. Hess scored his first of the game at the 3:32 mark, before DiMaria and Fantoni netted goals to end the half, giving Lehigh the four-goal lead it had at the end of the first, 9-5.
The Raiders’ Jeff Ledwick, who finished with a game-high five goals, scored at 13:36 of the third quarter to make it 9-6, but Lehigh answered with three of the next four and four of the next six to take a 13-8 advantage after Roman Lao-Gosney’s second goal in a 4:23 span. However, Colgate went on another outburst, scoring three times in a 1:02 span to pull right back within 13-11 with 1:15 remaining. But as they did at the end of the second quarter, the Mountain Hawks scored a momentum-changing goal with just 11 seconds left in the third, for a three-goal cushion.
Fantoni and senior Cameron Lao-Gosney made it 16-11 at the 11:03 mark of the fourth. The Raiders did score three goals down the stretch, but the Mountain Hawks held them off to wrap up the 16-14 victory.
Colgate held a 43-40 shot edge while Lehigh won the groundball battle, 31-29. Snyder won 15-of-32 faceoffs in a strong bounce back performance after struggling in the regular season meeting against the Raiders. He also scooped nine groundballs to improve to 92 for the season. The Mountain Hawks were 14-of-15 on clears and 2-of-3 on extra man opportunities while Colgate was 16-of-18 and 3-of-5, respectively.
Freshman Matt Poillon was solid with 14 saves while Madison posted four before Colgate’s Conor Murphy made one.
The Mountain Hawks will now wait for next Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show. Check back to Lehighsports.com throughout the week for continued updates.
“We’re definitely not even close to being done yet,” said Fantoni. “We’ll wait for our NCAA Tournament fate, prepare for that and see how things go from there.”