Posted: 05/10/2012 | Last updated: May 13, 2012 at 09:35 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Following a historic regular season, the Lehigh men’s lacrosse team will play its first-ever NCAA Tournament game on Sunday night when the seventh-seeded Mountain Hawks host Maryland at 7:30 p.m. at the Ulrich Sports Complex. The game will air live nationally on ESPNU and ESPN3.com with Joe Beninati and Ryan Boyle on the call. Lehigh is the first Patriot League team to host a first round game since Navy in 2005. Sunday’s winner will face the winner of #2 Johns Hopkins and Stony Brook next Saturday in Annapolis, Md.
Sunday’s game is sold out. The Ulrich Sports Complex record came this season vs. Bucknell (2,096) while Sunday has a chance to shatter that mark.
The Mountain Hawks wrapped up their first Patriot League Tournament Title with a thrilling 16-14 win over Colgate last Sunday, April 29. Lehigh’s offense has come alive of late, scoring 45 goals over its last three games to up its season average to 10.50. That figure is more than last season’s 10.44 average which led the Patriot League. Junior Dante Fantoni has been a big reason why, posting 14 points over his last three games, including nine in the Patriot League Tournament to earn Tournament MVP honors. He’s all the way up to 41 points for the season (22 goals, 19 assists), second on the team behind classmate David DiMaria’s 44 (22 goals, 22 assists).
DiMaria was also named to the All-Tournament Team, along with fellow juniors Mike Noone and Ryan Snyder. Lehigh avenged a heartbreaking 11-10 overtime loss to Colgate during the regular season, going up 16-11 with 11:03 remaining to erase much doubt. The Raiders scored the final three goals, but didn’t pull within two until 23 seconds to go. The win came over a strong Colgate team, who went on to beat Sunday’s opponent (Maryland) in its regular season finale to earn an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Lehigh is 1-0 against the ACC this year, earning an 9-8 victory over then fourth-ranked North Carolina back on Mar. 3. That pushed the Mountain Hawks into the national rankings for the first time as they’ve stayed there ever since, coming in as high as #4 in this week’s USILA Coaches Poll. The Mountain Hawks are 6-0 in night games this season, all against foes ranked - in one or both of the national polls at the time of the game - Penn, UNC, Penn State, Navy, Bucknell and Army.
If Lehigh beats Maryland on Sunday, it would give the school an NCAA Tournament win in football, men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse during the 2011-12 academic year. Football defeated Towson, 40-38 before falling in the National Quarterfinals while men’s basketball earned a historic 75-70 upset over #2 seed Duke, becoming only the sixth-ever 15 seed to win a tournament game and first to lead its ensuing game at the half (Mountain Hawks led Xavier 37-33 after 20 minutes).
Lehigh would become the first-ever school to win an NCAA Tournament game in all three sports. The Mountain Hawks would join 11 who’ve won men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse NCAA games, and an FBS bowl game the same year. Maryland, North Carolina and Syracuse accomplished that feat three times apiece and Notre Dame and Virginia once. The most recent was last year (2010-11) when Notre Dame topped Akron in men’s basketball (69-56), beat Miami in the Sun Bowl for football (33-17) and Penn in men’s lacrosse (13-6).
Maryland leads the all-time series, 3-1. Lehigh won the first-ever matchup ni 1924 (3-0) before Maryland responded with wins in 1925 (5-3), 1926 (7-3) and 1928 (11-2).
The Terps enter the NCAA Tournament with a 9-5 record, 1-2 in the ACC. Maryland owns two especially big wins at #2 seed Johns Hopkins (9-6) and at home against #3 seed Duke (10-7). Joe Cummings leads the offense with 41 points (27 goals, 14 assists) while Owen Blye has 31 (16 goals, 15 assists) and John Haus 29 (13 goals, 16 assists). Two others have eclipsed 20 points while nine total players have reached double-digit points. Freshman midfielder Joe LoCascio leads the team with 53 groundballs and 29 caused turnovers while faceoff man Curtis Holmes has 50 along with a 49.8 faceoff percentage (103-of-207). Goalie Niko Amato has 47 groundballs while posting a 7.40 GAA and 55.1 save percentage. Like Lehigh, the Terps have a stout defense, giving up just 7.86 goals per game (ninth nationally). Maryland leads the nation in fewest turnovers per game (12.14) while the Mountain Hawks are fifth (12.94).
With a win, the Mountain Hawks would advance to the National Quarterfinals where they’d face the winner of second-seed Johns Hopkins and Stony Brook next Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.