BETHLEHEM, Pa. - After starting in a 3-0 hole, the Lehigh women’s lacrosse team rallied for a 10-9 victory over Villanova on Saturday afternoon behind a five-goal performance from sophomore Carli Sukonik. The Wildcats had a late chance at the Lehigh net in an attempt to send the game into an extra session, but junior goalkeeper Alex Fitzpatrick stood tall and made the save to preserve the win.
“We’re thrilled to get our first win today,” said Lehigh head coach Jill Redfern. “It was a fun game that had a number of momentum changes in it and we got out of there with a victory.”
Senior Julie McBrien added a pair of goals and game-high six draw controls while freshman Megan Paytas dished two assists. Sophomores Lauren Willcox and Kelsey Yenco each scooped three groundballs.
Less than nine minutes into the game, Villanova had built itself a 3-0 lead, but McBrien got the Mountain Hawks on the board for the first time in 2013. Lehigh added two more goals in the next 2:17, from senior Anna Patterson and freshman Kendall Garden, to make it 3-3 at the 19:29 mark.
Freshman Kris Abens gave the Mountain Hawks the lead when she scored off an assist from Sukonik with just over 14 minutes to go in the first half. A minute and a half later, Sukonik scored her first of five on a free position shot to give the Mountain Hawks at 5-3 advantage with 12:05 on the clock.
Lehigh never looked back as the Mountain Hawks pulled away to take a 7-3 lead at halftime after Sukonik found the back of the net off another free position shot for her second of the half.
After three Nova goals, Lehigh’s lead shrank to just two with 13:35 to play, but Sukonik answered with her fourth goal to put the Mountain Hawks ahead 9-6 and give Lehigh a small cushion.
“Carli is a tremendous goal scorer and that’s her thing,” said Redfern. “She’s one of the best finishers and she is at her best on game day.She really came through for us today.”
After taking a 10-6 lead following Sukonik’s fifth and final goal of the contest, the Wildcats rallied with three of their own to cut Lehigh’s lead to just one with 3:36 remaining.
Out of a timeout, the Wildcats had an opportunity to tie the score when they fired a shot from directly in front of the Lehigh net, but Fitzpatrick was there to make the save and preserve the lead.
With time winding down, the Mountain Hawks transitioned the ball into the Villanova zone and kept the Wildcats from gaining another offensive opportunity as the clock hit zero and Lehigh picked up its first win of the 2013 season.
“I thought that was the save of the game at exactly the right time,” said Redfern. “We transitioned the ball well into our offensive end and had some young players that had great awareness and kept it away from them. We’re very pleased with the result.”
Final shots were 20-19 in favor of Villanova while the Wildcats held a 10-9 edge in groundballs. Lehigh finished with an 11-10 advantage in draw controls. Fitzpatrick finished with seven saves while a pair of Villanova goalies combined for five.
The Mountain Hawks will now travel to Temple on Saturday, Feb. 23 for a 1 p.m. contest with the Owls before continuing their road trip with a 4 p.m. start at Binghamton on Feb. 27.