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Philly grads pace @LehighLacrosse past NJIT, 13-8 in opener; @LafayetteMLAX bows to UNC

Saturday, 3rd February 2018

Categories Boy's/Men's, College  
 

Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/3/18
From Press Release

All six of the Mountain Hawks’ starting midfielders and attackmen tallied multiple points while sophomore Conor Gaffney (Lenape-NJ) won 11-of-12 second-half faceoffs while freshman James Spence (Springfield-Delco) made nine saves in goal to lead the Lehigh men’s lacrosse team to a 13-8 season-opening win over NJIT on Saturday afternoon.

Lehigh’s Conor Gaffney (Lenape-NJ) – Photos courtesy of Lehigh Sports Information

Juniors Mickey Fitzpatrick posted his first-career hat trick while classmate Andrew Pettit (Tower Hill-DE) tallied a game-high five points behind three goals and two assists. The Mountain Hawks 4-3 early in the second quarter, but went on a 7-1 run to create separation and pick up their eighth season-opening victory in their last nine tries.

“I want to give credit to NJIT,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “They’re much improved from a year ago. A lot of credit goes to their coaching staff and their players for sticking with it. They had us on the ropes early; they took a one-goal there in the second goal then we had a huge goal from Mickey to get us tied again and it was a one-goal game at halftime.”

Along with Fitzpatrick and Pettit, senior John Mehok (Bishop Shanahan) also set a career high with three points (career-high tying two goals, one assist). Junior Tristan Rai tallied a goal and two assists, senior Ian Strain tied a career-high three assists and junior Lucas Spence (Springfield-Delco) posted a goal and assist.

Gaffney finished 18-of-25 with 12 groundballs while freshman long-stick midfielder Teddy Leggett impressed in his collegiate debut, recording four goals and two assists. Junior Eddie Bouhall had five groundballs and a caused turnover while classmate Craig Chick recorded three groundballs and two caused turnovers.

Mehok and Rai opened the scoring with two quick goals before the game was five minutes old. The teams traded goals before the Highlanders went on a 3-0 run to take a 4-3 lead with 12:40 remaining in the second quarter. The Mountain Hawks answered with a three-goal surge of their own, beginning with Fitzpatrick’s first of the game (at 10:03). He was followed by Mehok’s second (at 8:23) and Pettit’s first (at 0:43). NJIT responded with 15 seconds on the clock to pull within 6-5 at the half.

Lehigh gained control early in the second, scoring the first four goals of the stanza. The run included Pettit’s second, a goal from sophomore Andrew Eichelberger, along with Fitzpatrick’s second and third goals as the Mountain Hawks took a 10-5 lead with 7:44 remaining in the third quarter.

Each side scored three goals the rest of the way, including the first-career goal from sophomore Austin Pierce, a man-up tally with 13:36 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Ian Strain (Episcopal Academy) had three assists for the Mountain Hawks.

“I was proud of our guys for answering,” said Cassese. “I thought the first five to ten minutes of the third quarter was huge for us. We got some good defensive stops today. Conor Gaffney showed up big, we got some great wing play from some of our poles like Craig Chick, Teddy Leggett and Matt Douglas, and our offense was able to find the net, which was hard to do because their goaltender was excellent.”

For the game, Lehigh held a commanding 48-20 edge in shots and 41-25 advantage in groundballs. Spence stopped seven of ten shots over the middle two quarters to finish with nine saves for the game. Kirst. NJIT’s Nick Marzullo was stellar, making 16 stops.

Lehigh’s John Mehok (Bishop Shanahan)

The Mountain Hawks are now set to hit the road next Saturday, Feb. 10 when they travel to Mercer. Opening faceoff in Macon, Ga. is set for 3:30 p.m.

UNC 17, Lafayette 10

The future looks bright for the Leopatrds with freshman John Natoli registering three goals and an assist as the Leopards played No. 9 North Carolina tough in their season opener.

Natoli, a rookie attacker out of Mountain Lakes, N.J., scored his three goals on just four shots to lead the Leopard offense. Senior co-captain Will McCarthy had an excellent showing as well, scoring two goals and adding two assists to go along with a trio of ground balls on the afternoon.

Junior goalie Jonathan Anastos took some time to settle into the game, but proved his worth throughout with 10 saves on the day. Shots finished at 46-38 in favor of the Maroon and White, while sophomore John Becker controlled the X, winning 19 of the game’s 31 faceoffs.

Charles Kelly (Malvern Prep) won 4 of 11 faceoffs for UNC

After a three-goal run to start the game from North Carolina, the defending ACC champion and picked to finish third in this year’s ACC preseason poll, sophomore Robbie Garavente got the Leopards on the board off a Natoli feed to make it 3-1. Carolina answered with three of the next four to take a 6-2 advantage into the second period.

The two teams were evenly matched in the second stanza, as freshman Andrew Robbins found the back of the net off a pass from McCarthy to start it, cutting the lead to three at 6-3. UNC responded with a pair before freshman Adam Close found Natoli, who slotted his first of the game at the 6:39 mark of the second to make it 8-4. Each team added another tally late in the half as the game went into the break with Carolina on top, 9-5.

The third quarter is where the home side made its move, as after two goals from each side over the first 14 minutes, Carolina was able to beat Anastos thrice in the final 1:13 of the third to stretch its lead to six at 13-7. Lafayette made a run late in the fourth as three straight markers from McCarthy, Garavente and Natoli made it 15-10 with 3:33 to go, but that was as close as the comeback would get as two more Tar Heel tallies closed it out with a final of 17-10.

Lafayette returns to action in a week’s time, traveling to Madison, N.J. for a meeting with NJIT on Saturday. Opening faceoff from Drew University is set for 11:30 a.m.

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