Posted: 02/16/2013 | Last updated: February 16, 2013 at 08:20 PM
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The #10/11 Lehigh men’s lacrosse team used a 5-0 first-half run to create some distance before fending off a Villanova comeback attempt to earn a hard-fought 11-9 road win on Saturday afternoon. With the victory, the Mountain Hawks improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2000 as they also snapped a six game losing streak at Villanova and won there for the first time since 1997.
“Today’s game was everything I expected it to be,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “Both teams played extremely hard. It was a war of wills: their style, their tempo vs. our style, our tempo. Luckily we were able to come out on top. I thought both teams were impressive.”
Senior David DiMaria equaled his stellar performance from a week ago by posting seven behind four goals and three assists. Classmate Dante Fantoni added four goals and an assist while sophomore Dan Taylor posted two and one.
“Our attack play was huge,” said Cassese. “Dave was outstanding, especially at the start of the game. Our attack once again stepped up huge and made some key plays in key moments to help us solidify the win.”
The defense stood tall against a potent Villanova offense. Defensemen Ty Souders, Mike Noone and Tripp Telesco held the Wildcats to just four goals in half field six-on-six. Sophomore goalie Matt Poillon stepped up with 16 saves to tie a career high.
“Villanova has a great offense,” said Cassese. “I thought our defense did a good job. Coach [Brendan] Callahan and Coach [Errol] Wilson really got those guys ready to play.”
The Wildcats scored the first two goals before senior Ryan Snyder scored off a faceoff to make it 2-1 at 9:07. Villanova took a 3-1 advantage, but Lehigh responded with a five-goal run bridging the first and second quarters to make it 6-3 Mountain Hawks. Fantoni took a feed from DiMaria, then DiMaria scored twice (including a man-down score) to make it 4-3 after one quarter of play.
Two man-up goals towards the beginning of the second quarter - from senior Kyle Stiefel and Taylor - made it 6-3, but Villanova answered to pull within 6-4 at the half.
The Wildcats scored three of the first four goals in the third quarter to pull even, but a huge goal with just one second left in the quarter gave the lead, and momentum, back to Lehigh. With time winding down, the Mountain Hawks didn’t give up on the play as DiMaria threw it in the direction of Fantoni who made the catch and quick shot past Villanova goaltender Greg Stamatov for an 8-7 advantage.
With the Wildcats down 9-8 in the fourth quarter, Lehigh got big goals from Fantoni (at the 9:03 mark) and DiMaria (at 7:58) for an 11-8 lead and some breathing room.
Jack Rice scored his third of the day at 5:30, but it wasn’t enough as the Mountain Hawks held serve for the win.
“It’s a testament to the leadership of our team to stay composed,” said Cassese. “We had been leading for the bulk of the game, from the middle of the first quarter through middle of the second. We let them back in it, but we stayed calm and collected and made the plays that were there to be made, especially in the fourth quarter.”
Final shots were 41-36 in favor of Lehigh while Villanova held a 31-24 edge in groundballs. Lehigh was 3-of-5 on the extra man, which included some big goals when the offense was struggling six vs. six. Snyder finished 10-of-22 from the faceoff X with six groundballs. Poillon’s 16 saves came across a pair of Villanova goalies who combined for 11.
Lehigh heads to Denver next weekend to face the #8/9 Pioneers on Saturday and Air Force on Sunday as part of the Face-Off Classic.
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