WORCESTER, Mass. - The trio of Adam Johnston, Dante Fantoni and Jonathan Stumpf combined for 10 goals while a strong Mountain Hawk defense held Holy Cross to only 18 shots as the Lehigh men’s lacrosse team (5-4, 2-1 Patriot League) cruised to an 11-5 win on Saturday. The Mountain Hawks have now won two of their first three league games for the first time since 2006.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “They really came to play. We talked a lot about the tail end of a long week. We had three games in seven days. The last time we had that, we didn’t perform very well in the final game. I thought the guys did a nice job [this time around].”
The Mountain Hawks opened up a 10-1 lead before a feisty Holy Cross squad responded with four of the final five goals. A physical game featured 13 penalties, including 10 on the Crusaders. Lehigh also finished with 10 caused turnovers, led by two apiece from sophomores David DiMaria, Mike Noone and Noah Molnar. Freshman Ty Souders was sensational on defense, scooping a career-high four groundballs along with a caused turnover.
“The defense did a nice job of getting the ball to the ground and creating a 50-50 groundball,” said Cassese. “We didn’t come up with all those, but we came up with some and got it to our offense. They played a lot of minutes on Tuesday night against a very good Army team. We asked a lot of them to show up and play great today and for the most part, they did.”
Johnston’s four goals gave him his 10th career hat trick while Fantoni and Stumpf each added three. For Fantoni, it marks his eighth-career hat trick while Stumpf now has two. The trio each added an assist, giving Johnston five points on the afternoon and Stumpf four, which each tied their respective career highs. Sophomore Kyle Stiefel accounted for Lehigh’s only other score.
Junior Cameron Lao-Gosney’s six-game streak with multiple goals ended, but he did dish out a pair of assists, as did DiMaria. Overall, Fantoni’s point streak is up to 21 while DiMaria’s has reached 19.
Lehigh controlled possession early, but a strong and aggressive Holy Cross defense kept the Mountain Hawks off the scoreboard until the 10:37 mark, when Stiefel finished his third goal of the season, taking a feed from Cameron Lao-Gosney and making a quick shot past Crusader goalie Kenny O’Connor to make it 1-0.
The Mountain Hawks added two more goals in the quarter, by Johnston and Stumpf, to make it 3-0 after one.
Fantoni scored the first two goals of the second quarter, at 12:44 and 6:01, to make it 5-0 with 6:01 remaining. Johnston then finished a nice feed from Cameron Lao-Gosney at 3:37 to make it 6-0 before Holy Cross got on the scoreboard 30 seconds later to pull within 6-1 at the half.
Lehigh scored the first four goals of the second half to extend its lead to 10-1. Johnston began the scoring at 11:08, then, after Stumpf and Fantoni found the back of the net, he added his fourth of the game for a nine-goal advantage at 1:50.
Holy Cross did respond with a goal only 13 seconds later, while netting three of the four fourth-quarter scores to pull closer at the final horn.
“Holy Cross played hard throughout,” said Cassese. “Our guys were very patient against their zone. They shot the ball well early in the game and that proved to be the difference.”
Lehigh held the final shot and groundball edge, 40-18 and 30-22, respectively. The Mountain Hawks won 9-of-19 faceoffs, including 7-of-15 from sophomore Ryan Snyder, who scooped six groundballs to up his season total to 74. Holy Cross turned the ball over 19 times to Lehigh’s 12. Sophomore goalie Dan Carr finished with four saves on eight shots before being relieved by sophomore Griffin Farha, who made one stop in the final 2:32. O’Connor had nine saves for the Crusaders.
The Mountain Hawks return to the Ulrich Sports Complex for their first of six straight home games to end the regular season, when they host Binghamton next Tuesday (Mar. 29) at 7 p.m. Lehigh will then welcome Penn State on Saturday (Apr. 2) for a special 1 p.m. faceoff in Goodman Stadium.
“It’s exciting to return home and be able to play in front of home crowd,” said Cassese. “But for me, you treat every game like it’s the most important one. We’re happy to have six straight home games to end the year, but they’re against some top-notch opponents. Regardless of where the game’s played, we’ll have our work cut out for us.”