BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Up by four towards the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Lehigh men’s lacrosse team fell victim to a furious Bucknell rally, dropping a heartbreaking 12-11 final to the No. 12 Bison (11-2, 5-0 Patriot League) on Friday evening. With the loss, the Mountain Hawks’ (6-7, 2-3 PL) must wait to clinch their first league tournament berth since 2006.
“This one’s tough,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “Our guys played hard as they always do and had a tremendous effort. But in the end, it was the third quarter that really determined the game.”
A win would have clinched Lehigh’s first Patriot League Tournament berth in five seasons. The Mountain Hawks can still clinch a bid with a win next Saturday (Apr. 23) vs. Lafayette. They could also clinch this Saturday should Army and Colgate beat Navy and Lafayette, respectively.
Lehigh came out firing, scoring seven of the game’s first eight goals to take a 7-1 advantage at 10:18 of the second quarter. But that’s when the Bison started chipping away, pulling within 8-4 at the half and 9-7 after three quarters of play. The Mountain Hawks actually scored the first two goals of the fourth, but that’s when the combination of Charlie Streep and Billy Eisenreich took over, combining to score the game’s final five goals, which included a natural hat trick from Eisenreich.
“Give Bucknell a lot of credit; they played great,” said Cassese. “They never believed they were out of the game.”
This marks the Mountain Hawks’ first loss when scoring 10 or more goals this season; they had been 6-0. The 11 goals came against a strong Bucknell defense, which hadn’t allowed more than 11 in a single game all year.
Leading the offensive charge was sophomore David DiMaria, who tied a career-high five points (two goals, three assists). Fellow sophomore Dante Fantoni contributed his 11th career hat trick (and third straight) while junior Cameron Lao-Gosney (one goals, two assists) and sophomore Kyle Stiefel (two goals) also recorded multiple points.
Sophomore Griffin Farha impressed in his first-career start in goal, making 13 saves. Two-time defending Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week Richard Bradley was once again strong, scooping four groundballs while causing a turnover.
Seven different goal-scorers helped Lehigh jump out to the 7-1 advantage at 10:18 of the second quarter. That included a score from Bradley off a fast break opportunity. Farha made a beautiful save on one end to spark the transition opportunity, which Bradley converted for his second goal of the season and 12th of his career.
The run was capped off by two goals in a 12-second span from Fantoni and Cameron Lao-Gosney.
Bucknell then responded with six of the next eight goals bridging the rest of the second and the entirety of the third. It looked like Lehigh had shifted the momentum when Fantoni and Stiefel scored at 13:40 and 10:49 of the fourth, but the Bison would not go away. Goals from Streep at 8:26 and 5:48 pulled them within 11-9. Eisenreich then came back with a stellar stretch of his own, making it 11-10 only 23 seconds later, then tying the score at 4:23. Farha made a great save off the initial Streep shot, but Eisenreich scooped up the groundball and found the open net to pull within one.
Eisenrich capped off the comeback with his third straight unassisted tally at 1:40. Lehigh did win the ensuing faceoff, but the Mountain Hawks couldn’t get a good shot off before the final horn.
The final shot count was tied at 30 while Lehigh held a 29-28 groundball edge. Bucknell was a perfect 12-of-12 on clears to the Mountain Hawks’ 15-of-18. A well-played game saw only 17 combined turnovers, 10 for Lehigh and seven for Bucknell. Farha finished with 13 saves across Kyle Feeney, who made eight, with five coming in the second half.
The Mountain Hawks continue their string of home games when they welcome No. 9 North Carolina for a special 12 p.m. faceoff on Sunday in Goodman Stadium. Tickets for that game are only $5 for the general public while seniors, groups and Lehigh students are only $3. Tickets may be purchased on Lehighsports.com or by calling 610-7LU-GAME. The UNC showdown will also air nationally on the CBS Sports Network with Dave Ryan and Matt Danowski calling the action.