BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team scored six of the game’s final nine goals, but it wasn’t nearly enough as No. 9 North Carolina held on for a 15-8 win in front of 1,493 fans on Sunday afternoon in Goodman Stadium. The Tar Heels (9-4) jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but the Mountain Hawks (6-8, 2-3 Patriot League) went on to play even the rest of the way.
Down by as much as 10 late in the third quarter, a resilient Lehigh squad hung tough, scoring six goals in the game’s final 15:19 after netting only two in the first 44:41.
“We came off a tough game Friday night when we expended a lot of energy and emotion [against Bucknell],” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “I knew our legs would be tired, but our guys put everything out on the field. It just so happens we ran into a great North Carolina team today.”
The game was also televised nationally on CBS Sports Network with Dave Ryan and former Tewaaraton Trophy winner Matt Danowski. The game will re-air five times on the network - on Sunday (5 p.m.), Monday (1:30 a.m., 7 a.m. and 12 p.m.) and Tuesday (2:30 p.m.).
In the first game played at Goodman this millennium, Lehigh was led by senior Jonathan Stumpf, who scored two second-half goals. Six others scored a single goal, including freshman Matt Smith, who netted his first-career tally off a nice feed from sophomore Brian Hess with only one second remaining in the fourth quarter.
Freshman Ryan Buttenbaum enjoyed his strongest game at the faceoff X, winning a career-high seven faceoffs on only 11 attempts. This came mainly against North Carolina’s R.G. Keenan, who won 12-of-20 on the day and owns a stellar 61 percentage on the season.
“I thought Buttenbaum stepped up today,” said Cassese. “He hasn’t been getting a lot of opportunities, but we needed someone to go to. He stepped up and did a nice job.”
Sophomore goalie Griffin Farha finished with 11 saves in his second straight start, including six in the first quarter to keep the Mountain Hawks. After North Carolina scored at 11:11, Farha and the defense held the Tar Heels without a goal for the game’s next 8:39. Lehigh did hold UNC scoreless for another stretch of 10:48 in the second quarter between its fifth and sixth markers.
“North Carolina was impressive in the middle of the field, starting with their faceoff and wing players,” said Cassese. “They are very athletic. One of the big reasons we only scored a goal in the first was because we didn’t have the ball.”
After Thomas Wood broke the ice at 11:11, the teams played scoreless lacrosse until 2:32 remaining when Mark McNeil made it 2-0. That was followed by Wood’s second of the game only eight seconds later.
The Tar Heels went on to take a 7-0 advantage before sophomore Dante Fantoni scored his 31st of the season at 2:37 to make it 7-1 heading into halftime. Junior Cameron Lao-Gosney made it two straight Lehigh goals at 13:43 of the third, but the Tar Heels came back with five in a row to open up a 12-2 advantage at the 3:48 mark.
That’s when Lehigh’s offense came alive as Stumpf netted his first with 19 seconds remaining in the third. The Mountain Hawks then won the ensuing faceoff and called timeout with five seconds remaining. They set up a play for junior Roman Lao-Gosney, who executed it to perfection. He sprinted from the sideline to his left and beat North Carolina goalie Steven Rastivo with a bounce shot as time expired.
The Tar Heels responded with three of the first four fourth-quarter scores, but Stump added his second at 1:31, followed by a strike from sophomore Kyle Stiefel at 22 seconds. Despite losing the ensuing faceoff, freshman Lukas Mikelinich caused a turnover and started transition the other way. Hess eventually found Smith in the middle for his first-career goal, good for the 15-8 final.
North Carolina held a 37-33 edge in shots and 34-32 advantage in groundballs. The Tar Heels won 14-of-25 faceoffs and were 16-of-19 on clears to the Mountain Hawks’ 14-of-17. UNC was 1-for-5 on man-up opportunities and Lehigh was 1-for-4. Farha finished with 11 saves before being relieved by sophomore Dan Carr while the Tar Heels’ Rastivo made six saves, allowing four goals and Chris Madalon made three saves and allowed the other four scores.
The Mountain Hawks wrap up the regular season when they host archrival Lafayette next Saturday (Apr. 23) at 7 p.m. at the Ulrich Sports Complex. It will mark Lehigh’s final test before the Patriot League Tournament, which begins the following Friday (Apr. 29). Tickets 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.
“We feel fortunate to be in a situation we are, knowing that we’re in the tournament,” said Cassese. “We have every intention of entering [the tournament] on the upswing after losing the last two in the league. No better way to gain momentum than against your arch rival.”