Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/28/13
By Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Information
The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team ran away from Colgate in the Patriot League Semifinals Friday night. The Mountain Hawks used a third-quarter surge to take a 10-1 lead and erase any doubt. For a second straight season, after the 15-7 win, they are playing for a Patriot League Championship.
Lehigh is looking to make history and win a second straight league title and earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, this after never reaching the national tournament in program history.
The Mountain Hawks are peaking at the right time – winners of six straight games – but have to get through a tough Bucknell squad today to hoist the trophy. Opening faceoff is set for 3 p.m. and will air nationally on CBS Sports Network.
“There’s a ton of excitement coming off a big game against Colgate and playing another team we know really well,” said Lehigh All-American defenseman and Emmaus High product Ty Souders. “We’re looking forward to competing for a Patriot League Title on our home turf.”
“Everything’s been building towards this day for this group, specifically for this senior class, ever since we’ve recruited them,” said Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese. “We’ve talked at length about winning championships.
“We obviously were able to do that last year, but there’s no ‘s’ at the end of that championship. We’re looking to add the s and go back-to-back for the first time in six years.”
What Cassese is referring to is Navy, the last team to win back-to-back Patriot League Championships in 2006-07. That was in the midst of Navy’s hay day, just a few seasons after the Midshipmen advanced to the National Championship Game in 2004. Lehigh is hoping to make similar noise on the national scene, but has to get by the Bison first. Bucknell enters with the most wins in the country (12) and impressive victories over Cornell, Drexel and Albany, so it won’t be easy.
“We know what we’re going to get on Sunday and we’re going to need a full team effort,” said Cassese. “We need our defense to play well, our offense to play well and we need to play well between the lines. We’ll have to do that for a full 60 minutes and maybe some extra.”
Lehigh got off to a slow start in nonleague play, but has turned it on. The Mountain Hawks have won 11 straight games over Patriot League opponents (regular and postseason), going undefeated in league play for the first time in school history to earn the right to host the Patriot League Tournament and be in front of their home crowd.
With beautiful weather expected today (sunny and low 70s), the Mountain Hawks hope the students and local community come out and pack the Ulrich Sports Complex. Souders grew up in the Lehigh Valley and didn’t have opportunities like this – to catch the nation’s best right in their back yard.
“Growing up, we didn’t really have the luxury of coming to see top Division I lacrosse week in and week out,” said Souders. “With our program being established as hopefully a perennial top 20 team, it’s a unique opportunity for Lehigh Valley kids to come out and see some of the best lacrosse in the country being played.”
“It’s not every day you get the opportunity to come out and see two of the best teams in the country go head to head,” said Cassese. “That’s what you have – two top 20 teams and two teams pushing the top 10. Lehigh-Bucknell is a huge rivalry across all sports so I hope our student body and the Lehigh Valley lacrosse community comes out and supports us.”
The Mountain Hawks have already defeated Bucknell and Colgate in the same season for the first time since 2007 and would have to beat each twice to ensure a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Lehigh won the regular season meeting two weeks ago, 11-7. It’s also a battle of the last two Patriot League Champions as Bucknell won the crown in 2011.
“Our guys are really excited for the opportunity,” said Cassese. “I’m happy for them that they’ve put themselves in position to compete for one, but none of us are content. We won’t be content until we’re able to hoist the trophy. We’ll have to play very well to do that against a talented Bucknell team.”
A capacity crowd is expected, but tickets are available by clicking here. Fans are encouraged to arrive early; gates open at 2 p.m.