Posted: February 11, 2009
With a year under his belt, head coach Kevin Cassese is back for his second season as a Mountain Hawk. The current member of Major League Lacrosse (Barrage) and former Duke All-American is eager to make a progression to a stronger, deeper, more athletic team on the field in 2009. With some heavy recruiting over the year, Cassese and his staff have picked up 12 new freshmen to add to his returning talent. While the Patriot League continues to improve year after year the Mountain Hawks have also been steadily improving. Cassese is laying the foundation for Lehigh to be a program to be reckoned with for years to come.
At the attack position, the Mountain Hawks will once again lean on senior Ricky Cornetta. He has scored 28 goals in his past three seasons at Lehigh, leading the pack as a junior with 17 goals and nine assists. In early March of ‘08, Cornetta earned Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week honors after scoring five goals in total for the week, with a career-high of four goals in a win against fellow Patriot League school, Holy Cross and adding another against Drexel. As a freshman he was named Patriot League Rookie of the Week after recording a hat trick against Holy Cross. Cassese expects Cornetta to be among the Mountain Hawks top offensive contributors as a senior, and is confident Cornetta will receive plenty of help from other returning players and several new faces on the offensive end.
Senior captain Max Dahlem and senior Matt Diehl will also be major contributors in the upcoming season. Dahlem started all 15 games last season and was one of the leaders for the Mountain Hawks in scoring. He recorded 16 goals on the season, finishing right behind Cornetta. As a sophomore, he saw time in 12 games and netted six goals. Dahlem will be a major influence on Lehigh’s offense this year. Diehl was also a key asset on Lehigh’s offense last season. He tied for fourth in goals with 10 while starting in 13 out of the 15 games. Coach Cassese will also look to junior Chris Lubin and freshmen Adam Johnston and Kevin Donovan, Jr. as contributors at the attack position. Lubin will see his first live game action this spring after serving an academic year in residence following his transfer from Providence College. Johnston led his high school team (St. Paul’s School, Md) with 87 goals and 200 ground balls in his final two seasons and Donovan is a two-time all-state selection out of Connecticut.
In the midfield, Cassese, a former NCAA Midfielder of the Year himself, will look to seniors Shane Donlan and Tyler Emery to lead the way. Donlan had a great showing in 2008 and is a strong leader on the squad, having been elected captain by his teammates leading up to the 2009 campaign. Emery is an athlete in the midfield who spent some time as a long pole last year before settling in this fall as a starting defensive midfielder. Junior Brian Bienemann had a strong performance as a mid-year transfer in 2008, as he found the back of the net for six goals and earned his way onto the starting midfield line by the end of the season. Junior Kyle Gentile will also be looked heavily upon in the midfield position. When healthy, he makes quite an impact. As a freshman he handled a good deal of Lehigh’s face-offs while starting eight games. Returning from injury, Gentile is looking to make a huge comeback after missing the bulk of last season.
Cassese will also be leaning on seniors Brant Fischer and Jonathan Haley, junior Chris Linko, and sophomores Dustin Clark and Will Scudder to add depth in the midfield. Adding fresh faces to the midfield, Cassese has some powerful talent that will be very beneficial to the team. Twin brothers Cameron and Roman Lao-Gosney were both All-Northern New England and All-Western team selections and members of the MAISAD state championship team. Trevor Stapleton was a Michigan First-Team All-State selection and an All-Midwest Honorable Mention. These freshmen and others will help to solidify Cassese’s midfield.
Once again, assistant coaches Taylor Wray (current member of the National Lacrosse League -Philadelphia Wings) and Brendan Callahan will work closely with the Mountain Hawks defense, which consists of a talented pool of players, beginning with senior captain Dan Honeywell, junior Evan Guerrero and sophomore Richard Bradley. Honeywell and Guerrero started all 15 games in the previous season and are poised to have breakout campaigns on the defensive end. Honeywell, a 2008 First Team All-Patriot league selection scored one goal and scooped up 42 ground balls in that time, while Guerrero scooped up 20 ground balls. Bradley made an immediate impact on the team. As a newcomer in ’08, he earned the starting spot at the long stick midfield position and saw extensive time in all 15 games. With great athleticism and a nose for the goal, he found the back of the net five times and recorded 38 ground balls. Senior captain Brendan Feeney, sophomores Ryan Brown and Chris Rhodes, and freshman Blaise Fullen will also be integral parts of the Mountain Hawks defensive unit in 2009. The Mountain Hawks defense has tremendous size and athletic ability mixed in with a philosophy that allows these athletes to get up field and make plays on the offensive end. When clicking on all cylinders, this unit will be fun to watch.
After losing the valuable Eric Spirko 08’and John Park 08’ duo to graduation, Cassese and Goalie Coach Brendan Callahan, who was an All-American and NCAA save percentage and goals against leader during his collegiate career at Stony Brook University, will look to name a new starting goalie this season. Both senior Dan Kaufman and sophomore Morgan Haller had the chance to learn from a pair of seasoned veterans a year ago. Both returnees saw action in one game in the previous season but will be looked at to step up to the plate in 2009. Newcomer Conor Murphy will also be pushing for time between the pipes this year.
Lehigh opens its 2009 season on Saturday, February 14 versus the Hawks of St. Joseph’s at the Ulrich Sports Complex. Game time is set for 1:00.