Posted: 04/25/2012 | Last updated: April 27, 2012 at 11:41 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Following a historic regular season, the eighth-ranked and #2 seed Lehigh men’s lacrosse team heads into its “second season” on Friday when it faces third-seeded Army in the Patriot League Semifinals. Faceoff is set for 8 p.m. as the game will air nation-wide on CBS Sports Network with Dave Ryan and Evan Washburn on the call. The entire league tournament will take place in Hamilton, N.Y. at Colgate’s Andy Kerr Stadium.
Fans can follow Friday night’s action in a number of ways. Along with the CBS Sports Network coverage, live audio will be available, with Steve Lomangino on the call. Fans can also follow along with a live interactive blog throughout the entire Patriot League Tournament, beginning with the first semifinal through the title game on Sunday. Just click here for the live blog.
Lehigh-Army will be the second game of the day following #4 Bucknell against #1 Colgate at 5 p.m. The winners will square off for the Patriot League Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at 3 p.m.
All four teams in the field are ranked in the top 20 of the Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll: Lehigh (8), Colgate (10), Bucknell (18) and Army (19). Lehigh finished the regular season 5-1 in Patriot League play with its only loss coming at Colgate earlier this month. The Mountain Hawks defeated Army in a slim 7-6 final on Mar. 17, while also winning a one-goal thriller on Apr. 14 vs. Bucknell.
The Mountain Hawks remain one of the hottest teams in the nation, winning 11 of their last 12 games. The 12 overall victories have tied a school record (originally set in 1994) while Lehigh is only one behind the nation’s leader in wins (Duke).
This marks Lehigh’s fourth Patriot League Tournament appearance in program history and second in as many years. The Mountain Hawks also qualified two straight years in 2005 and 06, falling to Navy in both occasions. This is the second time Lehigh will play a Patriot League Tournament at Colgate as the squad fell to Navy in 2006 up in Hamilton.
The 2012 tournament field is the exact same as last season, except in a different order. Last year, Bucknell was the #1 seed followed by Colgate, Army and Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks are vying for their first-ever Patriot League Tournament Title and NCAA Tournament berth. Lehigh did win the Patriot League in 1999, but that was before the league had an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Lehigh is vying for its 13th victory of the season, which would set a new school record. The Mountain Hawks are 7-1 away from home, and look to win their seventh game of the season against a ranked foe.
Army has controlled the all-time series, owning a 20-4 advantage, but Lehigh has won two of the last four, including a hard-fought 7-6 win this season. The games have been extremely competitive, with each of the last 10 meetings decided by four goals or fewer, including five one-goal games and four three-goal finals. The sides first met in 1922 (a 4-1 Army win) before reconvening in 1990 for Patriot League play. The Black Knights won the first 10 meetings before Lehigh’s first win in 1999 (13-9). The Mountain Hawks’ other victory came at home in 2006 by an 8-7 final.
The Black Knights are in the midst of an up-and-down season, but have impressed of late to come in as the #3 seed with a 4-2 Patriot League record (7-6 overall). Army has won four of its last five, beginning with a 10-3 win over Lafayette. After a slim two-goal loss to Colgate, the squad bounced back with a big 6-5 overtime win at Bucknell before beating Navy and Holy Cross the past two weeks. All-League honoree Garrett Thul leads the offense with 40 points (37 goals, three assists) while John Glesener has 32 (16, 16), Devin Lynch 24 (19, 5) and Conor Hayes 24 (14, 10). Tim Henderson was named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, posting 54 groundballs and 19 caused turnovers at defensive midfield. Derek Sipperly, an All-League performer at the faceoff X, won 57.2 percent (147-of-257) with a team-leading 82 groundballs. Zach Palmieri has come into his own between the pipes, posting an 8.64 GAA and 52.0 save percentage. An aggressive style has seen the Black Knights own a 401-347 edge in groundballs while causing 107 turnovers.
Should the Mountain Hawks win, they’d advance to their first-ever Patriot League Championship Game to face the winner of top seed Colgate and fourth-seeded Bucknell. The title game will air at 3 p.m. on CBS Sports Network with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.