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Independence Classic Game Preview: Lehigh vs. Penn State (5 p.m.)

Friday, 8th March 2013

Categories Boy's/Men's, College  
 

Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 3/8/13
From Press Release

Lehigh (ranked No. 17) and Penn State (No. 12) square off in the third game of the Whitman’s Sampler Indepedence Classic Saturday at PPL Park at 5 p.m. (ESPN3).

It marks the third game of a tripleheader as Syracuse faces St. John’s at 12 p.m. and Penn takes on Villanova at 2:30. All three games will air live on ESPN3. The game will also air on Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia via tape delay at 8:30 p.m.

For ticket information and complete information on the event, please check out the official Independence Classic website by clicking here.

The Mountain Hawks have struggled as of late, falling in three of the last four. Lehigh has been right in each game, including leading #11 Denver at the half (and trailing by only two after three quarters) while playing a nip and tuck game against #18 Penn in a 6-4 loss Tuesday night. Both defenses dominated. Senior Mike Noone (La Salle) posted five groundballs and a career-high six caused turnovers as the Mountain Hawks caused 13 of the Quakers’ 19 turnovers. Goalie Brian Feeney was the story for Penn, posting a career-high 17 saves as the Quakers got goals from six different scorers for the victory.

Saturday marks Lehigh’s final tuneup before Patriot League play begins next Saturday (Mar. 16) at Army. The Mountain Hawks do have one final nonleague contest on Mar. 20 against #9/13 UMass on ESPNU. Lehigh and Penn State renewed a longstanding rivalry in 2011, with the Nittany Lions winning at Lehigh (8-7 in overtime) before the Mountain Hawks won at Penn State last season, 9-5, their first win over Penn State since 1971.

The NCAA Quarterfinals were held at PPL Park last season and Championship Weekend will take place at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia this May. Saturday marks Lehigh’s first of (at least) three nationally-televised games as the squad will host UMass on ESPNU and Colgate on CBS Sports Network. The entire Patriot League Tournament will air on CBS Sports Network as well.

The Mountain Hawks have allowed only 10 goals to the Quakers over the last two seasons (four in a 10-4 victory last year). Penn improved to 3-1 with the victory, which includes a win over Duke and slim loss at Denver.

Penn State is 2-2, including a win over Denver and losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State. The Nittany Lions are led by TJ Sanders (13 goals, two assists) and La Salle grad Jack Forster (10 goals, five assists), who have 15 points apiece. Downingtown East grad Shane Sturgis has 11 points (nine goals, two assists) while Tom LaCrosse comes in with seven (six goals, one assist).

Danny Henneghan has impressed at the faceoff X, winning 57 percent (53-of-93) with a team-leading 22 groundballs. Michael Richards and Jack Donnelly are tied for the team lead with five caused turnovers apiece. Austin Kaut has played every minute in goal and owns a 9.25 GAA and 51.9 save percentage.

A long-time rival, Lehigh trails Penn State in the all-time series, 32-8. Last season, the Mountain Hawks won for the first time since 1971. The sides first met in 1915, a 10-2 Lehigh win before Penn State picked up its first win in 1927, 11-2. With a win on Saturday, Lehigh would win two straight against Penn State for only the third time in program history (1915-17 and 1970-71).

Penn State notes

LAST TIME VS. LU (Mar. 3, 2012)

Penn State team dropped its third straight game with a 9-5 loss to Lehigh at the Penn State Lacrosse Field. Jack Forster (two goals) and Matthew Mackrides (one goal, one assist) led Penn State with two points each. Both Nick Dolik and Shane Sturgis added a goal, while freshman midfielder Kyle Zittel recorded an assist. Lehigh’s Dante Fantoni, Roman Lao-Gosney and Adam Johnston recorded two goals each.

BUCKEYES STORM PAST PENN STATE

A game of runs went the way of Ohio State as No. 8 Penn State fell, 10-9, in overtime. OSU’s Jesse King scored with no time on the clock in overtime to win it. Penn State’s TJ Sanders scored five first-half goals to help the Lions stake an 8-2 halftime lead. Ohio State closed the game on an 8-1 run. Jack Forster pitched in with a four point day behind a goal and three assists. Shane Sturgis netted two points, scoring the game-tying goal in the fourth quarter.

SANDERS AGAIN NAMED CAA TOP ROOKIE

Freshman TJ Sanders was named Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Week on Monday, March 4. Sanders has been named CAA Rookie of the Week in two of the four award cycles this season. The five goals scored were a career high, topping his four-goal effort against Michigan in his first collegiate game on Feb. 9.

DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES

Penn State’s offense has improved mightily in 2013 with the emergence of its attacking trio of TJ Sanders (15 points), Jack Forster (15) and Shane Sturgis (11). Penn State is averaging 11 goals per game this season with a shooting percentage of .273. Last season, the Nittany Lions scored just 8.73 goals per game and post a percentage of .258. Also, assists, points, shots and ground balls per game are up from 2012.

2012 2013 Margin

Goals/gm. 8.73 11.00 +2.27
Assists/gm. 4.20 4.75 +0.55
Points/gm. 12.93 15.75 +2.82
Shots/gm. 33.80 40.25 +6.45
Shot Pct. .258 .273 +.015
Ground Balls/gm. 27.20 33.00 +5.80

GOING STREAKING

Penn State’s attack has a pair of Nittany Lions riding point streaks from last season. Leading the way is Jack Forster whose 16-game streak started on March 3, 2012 against Ohio State, while Shane Sturgis is at 10 games.

Name Games Date started G-A-P

Jack Forster 16 3/3/12 32-14-46
Shane Sturgis 10 3/31/12 23-8-31

RUNNING THE GAUNTLET

Penn State is currently in a stretch of five games against USILA ranked opponents. So far, PSU is 1-2. Two more games await PSU: No. 19 Lehigh and No. 9 Massachusetts.

Two other Penn State opponents, No. 14 Drexel (Apr. 6) and No. 15 Hofstra (Apr. 27) are also ranked. Bucknell (March 26) received votes in this week’s poll.

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