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Men’s lacrosse: Lehigh coach Cassese looks back, and ahead with optimism for 2011-12 season

Friday, 22nd July 2011

Categories Boy's/Men's, College  
 

Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 7/22/11
From Press Releases

Lehighsports.com recently caught up with Lehigh head men’s lacrosse coach Kevin Cassese. Coach Cassese takes a look back at the 2011 season, while touching on the David DiMaria-Dante Fantoni duo, Ty Souders’ tryout, a sneak peak at next season and more. The Mountain Hawks advanced to their first Patriot League Tournament since 2006 last year and look to build upon that success heading into a highly-anticipated 2012 campaign.

Emmaus grad Ty Souders, a Lehigh rising sophomore, made the U-19 tryouts this summer

It’s been a few months since the season ended. How would you assess 2011?

Coach Cassese: Looking back to 2011, it was a solid year overall. We did some things in the program that we haven’t done before, certainly while I’ve been the coach here. We beat Navy for the first time in almost one hundred years. That was a huge win for the program, not only for the current guys, but also for the alums and anybody who has ever worn the Lehigh jersey. We made it to the Patriot League Tournament for the first time since I’ve been the coach here. It was also the first time that anybody who is currently in the program has made the tournament, so definitely some major steps in the right direction. Certainly not where we want to be; we haven’t met all of our goals, but we’re still working towards them. I am extremely appreciative of the seniors who graduated last year. We only had six of them, but they certainly helped take us to a place where we hadn’t been before. It was a good year, but certainly not the be-all, end-all of where we want the program to be.

David DiMaria and Dante Fantoni emerged as one of the nation’s best 1-2 scoring punches. Talk about the chemistry that they’ve developed and what they mean for the program moving forward.

Coach Cassese: David and Dante really formed a nice chemistry on the field, and off the field as well. It looks like they’re truly very good friends and that translates into great chemistry on the field. As our PA announcer Bill McCoach has dubbed them, “the Italian connection.” That always gets a chuckle out of the guys on the sideline. It’s incredible to watch them work together and it’s awesome to think about the fact that they’re going to have two more years together. Besides that, there are some talented players around them. But certainly, with how many touches they get in a game at the attack position, that’s two thirds of our attack right there. It helps to have great chemistry with one of your teammates and those guys certainly have it. They emerged as our two leading scorers as sophomores and I certainly expect great things from them down the road.

How will the experience Ty Souders (Emmaus) had at the U.S. Under-19 tryouts help in the long term?

Coach Cassese: It was great for Ty to be able to get that valuable experience at the United States Under- 19 tryouts. I was really happy he earned the tryout; I thought that was very well deserved. Unfortunately, he was a little bit slowed due to a knee injury which he’ll never tell anybody; it certainly limited his mobility while he was down there. Overall, it was a tremendous experience for him playing against some of the top lacrosse players in the country. I think that will help him when he comes back here in the fall and in the spring of 2012 to become a better player and a better athlete. I’m really excited he took part in that and I know he is as well. Hopefully, sometime down the road, he’ll get a chance to represent the red, white and blue again.

What have you been up to this summer?

Coach Cassese: This summer has been a busy one as it always is for the Lehigh Lacrosse coaching staff. Between recruiting, evaluations, traveling the country and the continent, and also with the camps that we run here, [it’s been busy]. We have three summer camps that we run here. An evening camp and an overnight instructional camp have been completed. We had a great turnout for those. It was great to have some of our current players come back and work those camps. We have one more left next week; that’s our Lehigh Valley Showcase camp, which is mainly for rising seniors and rising juniors in high school. We look forward to that. This is the second year that we’ve run the camp and in our second year, we’re sold out. That’s an amazing feat. Give a lot of credit to [assistant coach] Brendan Callahan, who is our camps coordinator. He does a great job of marketing the camps and filling those spots. It should be a really talented group. A lot of our top recruits will be coming in for the showcase. We really look forward to that next week. It’s going to run from Tuesday to Thursday, July 26 to 28. It should be a great week.

Give fans a sneak peak at what next year has in store.

Coach Cassese: I don’t want to look too far ahead, but I’m really excited for the fall. This is an opportunity for us to figure out who we’re going to be and what we’re made of. We’ll have a pretty large roster in the fall. We’ll start it off with our evaluation period, like we always do, and our Lehigh Lacrosse combine. It’s always fascinating to see how the guys come back through the summer. You can oftentimes tell who was motivated the most during the summer months when they come back. You can tell that by body type, by the urgency in their play and guys who are really eager to earn spots and earn playing time. I’m looking forward to the fall to find out what we’re made of. And then in the spring, we’re going to have a great schedule again, a challenging schedule. Hopefully we can achieve some of those goals that we’ve talked about: to make it back to the Patriot League Tournament, hopefully get a chance to win that Patriot League Tournament and make the most of it into the NCAA Tournament. Those are some big program goals. I’m excited about the freshmen that we have coming in. We have a great group of 13 young men that are going to come in; we have two transfers as well that will join the ranks. It’s always interesting to see how they fit in with the upperclassmen, both on and off the field. Each year is a different journey and this is certainly no different; we’re looking forward to the journey that will be 2011-2012.

The program seems to be gaining a lot of momentum, both regionally and nationally. Why should Lehigh fans get excited for next year, and beyond?

Coach Cassese: It’s an exciting time to be a Mountain Hawk fan. This is now our fifth year as coaching staff, with a team that is starting to mature on the field; you can see that. The core of our group will be in our upperclassmen this year with obviously some younger guys mixed in. For fans in the Lehigh Valley, they should have one game in particular circled in the back of my mind. Our home opener [in 2012] is going to be against Villanova, who finished last year as a top-ten team and made the NCAA Tournament. That will be in late February and as a home opener; that should be a very exciting day. So hopefully we get a lot of fans to come out to that and stay with us throughout the course of the year.

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