PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team broke a 2-2 tie by scoring seven consecutive goals to run away with an 11-4 win over Saint Joseph’s on Saturday, in the season opener for both teams. Freshman goalie Matt Poillon made 13 saves in his collegiate debut while junior Ryan Snyder won 14-of-19 faceoffs with a career-high 14 groundballs to lead the way. The Mountain Hawks will return to action next Saturday when they welcome 10th nationally-ranked Villanova to the Ulrich Sports Complex.
Saturday was a reunion of sorts as former Lehigh assistant Taylor Wray was on the opposite sideline in his first game as Saint Joseph’s head coach.
“I want to give a ton of credit to Coach Wray and his coaching staff for really getting their guys fired up and ready to play,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “For a good portion of the game, they carried the tempo and forced our guys to match their energy. I was very impressed with Saint Joe’s and the energy they brought.”
Senior Adam Johnston led the offensive attack with four goals on only six shots. Junior Brian Hess posted a career-high two goals and three points while sophomore Cody Ferraro scored his first two career goals in the victory. Junior David DiMaria added a goal and two assists as well.
Lehigh jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 1:05 into the game as Johnston scored the first of his four goals. Hess made it 2-0 at the 12:27 mark, taking a feed from senior Cameron Lao-Gosney and beating Saint Joseph’s goalie Griffin Ferrigan, who went on to post 18 saves.
However, the Hawks clawed right back into the game, scoring at the 6:52 and 2:16 marks to make it 2-2 after one quarter of play.
That’s when Lehigh took over, outshooting Saint Joseph’s 12-4 and outscoring the Hawks, 3-0, to take control heading into halftime. Ferrigan kept Saint Joe’s in it with nine second-quarter saves, but he couldn’t stop Hess, Johnston and Ferraro who all found the back of the net.
The Mountain Hawks extended their run through the third and the beginning part of the fourth. The run was capped off by a Ferraro goal off a Snyder faceoff win, just six seconds into the final stanza. Saint Joseph’s finally broke a 32:22 scoreless drought behind a Ryan McGee goal, but Johnston responded with his third and fourth goals of the afternoon to erase any doubt. Bobby Hurley added the final tally at 1:16 to pull Saint Joseph’s within 11-4 at the final horn.
“Both teams got tremendous goalie play; that was the story of the game,” said Cassese. “A lot of the saves were point-blank, inside and tight. Both goaltenders played exceptionally well.”
Lehigh held the final edge in shots (38-30) and groundballs (26-18). Lehigh was 14-of-17 on clearing attempts while Saint Joseph’s finished 15-of-20. The Mountain Hawks were 2-of-4 on the extra man to the Hawks’ 1-of-3. Poillon made 13 saves in his collegiate debut across Ferrigan, who finished with 18.
Sophomore Ty Souders held Saint Joseph’s leading returning scorer Kyle Williams to one assist to lead the defensive charge.
“We kept them to four, but I don’t think that was our best effort on the defensive end,” said Cassese. “We could play better. Matt bailed us out several times with point-blank saves. We were fortunate to only give up four.”
The Mountain Hawks will return home to host their second straight Philadelphia school (Villanova) next Saturday, Feb. 18. Faceoff against the 10th-ranked Wildcats is set for 12 p.m. at the Ulrich Sports Complex.
“It’s going to be a huge game,” said Cassese. “It’s our home opener, their opening game. Both teams know each other very well.
“We need to play a whole lot better if we hope to win,” Cassese continued. “We know Villanova is a tremendous team. We have to elevate our level of play to put the best possible product on the field come next weekend.”