Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/24/17
From Press Release
The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team is hard at work, 10 days into preseason practice as it prepares for its season opener vs. NJIT on Feb. 4. The Mountain Hawks feature a young team, along with several key veterans who look to lead the way in 2017.
“Practice has been intense,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “There’s a lot of competition for spots. Our guys are playing hard and really getting after it, which makes everyone better.”
The Mountain Hawks look to get back to championship contention from 2012-14 when they advanced to three straight Patriot League Championships, winning two. Lehigh has made the Patriot League Tournament each of the last two seasons, extending its streak to six straight years, but the team is determined to take the next step back towards championship contention.
“I like the overall vibe and mood of the team right now, where there is this professional feel to them,” said Cassese. “They’re really mindful of their bodies, nutrition, hydration, recovery, rest and also, with how hard they push themselves – from getting extra lifts in, extra shooting sessions to the way they handle sports medicine treatments and preventative treatments. They dive into the film and you see guys carrying their playbooks home with them to study at night.
“There seems to be a commitment that has been raised up a notch, and I think that’s a really good sign,” Cassese continued. “Hopefully, they’re learning that it’s going to take a little bit bigger effort in order to recreate the winning culture that we had here a few years ago.”
Senior co-captain Ian Strain (Episcopal Academy) echoed Cassese’s sentiments.
“It’s great to have the guys back on campus. We spent a lot of time at home, working to try and prove something this year,” said Strain. “We’re young. We have a lot of guys who are stepping on the field for the first time and the older guys are there to support them. I think we’re ready to show people that we’re ready to make some noise this year.”
Last season, the Mountain Hawks were 4-4 in the Patriot League to finish fifth in the league standings. One of the highlights was a dramatic 8-7 win at No. 20 Boston University which effectively clinched Lehigh’s sixth straight league tournament berth.
Despite losing talented seniors to graduation, including co-captains Casey Eidenshink, Tripp Telesco and Reid Weber, Lehigh returns plenty of talent, led by sophomores Craig Chick (the nation’s leader in caused turnovers last season) and Tristan Rai (who finished second on the team with 31 goals and 41 points).
This is a different season and the Mountain Hawks are looking to use preseason as an opportunity to mesh and gain chemistry as a unit, leading into the Feb. 4 opener.
“We want to make sure that our base schemes are in place, that our guys feel comfortable and confident running them and we’re playing the right people in the right spots,” said Cassese. “It’s important to make sure we’re healthy and energized. We’re only going to have about 20 practices in before we hit the first game, so it’s not going to be about any crazy schemes. It’s about being organized, being healthy and having tremendous energy.”
“With a lot of new guys stepping in, we want to establish where we fit in on the field,” said Strain. “Once we know that, we can really get after it full speed. We’re really resilient. We’re looking to make a name for ourselves. We want to show people that we mean business this year.”
The season opener is set for Saturday, Feb. 4 at 12 p.m. vs. NJIT. Lehigh will then hit the road the following Saturday at Jacksonville, the first of a four-game road trip.