Posted: 02/07/2013 | Last updated: February 7, 2013 at 08:45 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team opens a highly-anticipated season on Saturday when the Mountain Hawks welcome Saint Joseph’s. Opening faceoff is set for 1 p.m. at the Ulrich Sports Complex. It will mark a homecoming of sorts for Saint Joe’s head coach Taylor Wray, who was an assistant at Lehigh for four seasons under Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. Dan Keating is on Wray’s staff as well after serving as volunteer assistant at Lehigh in 2010.
The Mountain Hawks are coming off a memorable 2012 season which saw them win their first Patriot League Tournament Title and make their first-ever NCAA Tournament. Lehigh won a school-record 14 games, earning the #7 seed in the tournament while hosting two-time National Finalist Maryland in the First Round. The squad returns nearly 70 percent of its points from a season ago along with 86 percent of its groundballs and 94 percent of its caused turnovers. The #2 scoring defense in the nation features Inside Lacrosse preseason All-Americans in junior Ty Souders and senior Mike Noone with reigning Patriot League Goalie of the Year Matt Poillon between the pipes.
Saturday marks Lehigh’s last home game until Mar. 2 as the Mountain Hawks will embark on a three-game road swing at Villanova then the Pioneer Classic at Denver where they’ll face the #8/9 Pioneers then a very strong Air Force squad. Lehigh has high hopes entering the 2013 campaign, predicted first in the Patriot League preseason poll and in many national publications. The Mountain Hawks climbed to as high as fourth in the national coaches poll (following the regular season) and look to continue the success with seven starters returning, including six preseason Inside Lacrosse All-Americans.
This marks the sixth straight year the Mountain Hawks open with Saint Joseph’s. Wray guided the Hawks to a 6-9 record last year, just one season after Saint Joe’s finished 0-12.
Lehigh is looking to win its season opener for a fourth straight year and fifth time in the last six seasons. The Mountain Hawks have faced Saint Joseph’s in each of the past five season openers. With a win, Lehigh would beat Saint Joseph’s for a fourth straight time and eighth time in its last nine against the Hawks.
Saint Joseph’s is coming off a much-improved 2012 season under first-year coach (and former Lehigh assistant) Taylor Wray. After an 0-12 season in 2011, Wray guided the Hawks to a 6-9 mark last year. Saint Joseph’s won its last three games: at Mercer, Marist and vs. Towson (to knock the Tigers out of the CAA Tournament). Ryan McGee led the team with 38 goals, 14 assists and 52 points while Kyle Williams had 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) and Augustus Quinzani, Bobby Hurley and Johnny Simanski all had 14. McGee and goalie Griffin Ferrigan led the team with 35 groundballs apiece. Ferrigan posted a strong 57.2 save percentage and 9.31 GAA between the pipes while Will Abbott and Billy Annesley split time at the faceoff X.
Lehigh holds an 11-2 lead in the all-time series, winning three straight and seven of its last eight against the Hawks. The sides first met in 1994, a 12-3 Lehigh victory. The Mountain Hawks won the first four meetings, scoring 12, 12, 21 and 16 goals in the process. There was a six-year gap between games (1998 and 2004) while the two Pennsylvania rivals have played every year since.
Lehigh returns to action next Saturday at Villanova, who’s first in “others receiving votes” in both the national coaches and media polls.
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