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College preview: Lehigh men look to continue success in 2013

Wednesday, 6th February 2013

Categories Boy's/Men's, College, Posted 2/6/13
From Press Release

The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team made history in 2012. The Mountain Hawks won their first ever Patriot League Tournament Title and advanced to their first NCAA Tournament. Lehigh earned the #7 seed, falling in the final seconds against eventual National Finalist Maryland.Dante Fantoni

The Mountain Hawks finished 14-3, but this year (the 125th season of Lehigh Lacrosse), their goals are higher. The team begins the new season with an impressive core of returning players who look to take the next step in 2013 by winning a second straight Patriot League Championship and making it back to the NCAA Tournament, where it hopes to advance to Championship Weekend and compete for a National Title right down the road in Philadelphia.

Lehigh has earned tremendous respect nationally, ranked #8 in Inside Lacrosse’s Face-Off Yearbook. The Mountain Hawks came in as high as fourth last year (in the week following the regular season) and ranked ninth in the final Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll.

“One of the biggest things that’s changed in a year is we’re no longer the underdog,” said Lehigh head coach and reigning Patriot League Coach of the Year Kevin Cassese. “We will certainly have a target on our back all year long, and we look forward to the new challenge. Our goals will always begin with Patriot League success. Last year, we were able to accomplish a long-standing goal of winning a Patriot League Tournament Championship.

“This year it’s a major goal of ours to repeat as Patriot League Champions,” Cassese continued. “It’s something that hasn’t been done in several years (last was Navy from 2004-07). Beyond that, we have our sights set on returning to the NCAA Tournament, reaching the Final Four in nearby Philadelphia, and making every effort to win the program’s first National Championship in the NCAA Tournament era.”

Lehigh returns a strong core this season, led by a prolific duo at attack in seniors David DiMaria and Dante Fantoni, along with its core at defense, and an All-American goalie. The biggest question will be replacing the Lao-Gosney twins at midfield, but Lehigh has strong pieces in place who look to step up.

DiMaria and Fantoni anchor a strong unit at attack, ranked as the nation’s 10th best unit in Inside Lacrosse’s Face-Off Yearbook. The duo has combined for 262 career points – 132 from DiMaria (55 goals, 77 assists) and 130 from Fantoni (82, 48). They complement each other extremely well, with Fantoni as more of the finisher and DiMaria the feeder, but both have developed tremendous all-around games.

After posting 33 points as a freshman, DiMaria led the team with 52 points as a sophomore then 47 last year as a junior. His goal total has increased each year as well, from nine to 22 to a team-leading 24 a season ago. Meanwhile, Fantoni has been consistent in his tenure, with 40 points as a freshman followed by 47 and 43, respectively. He recorded 11 straight multi-point games to end 2012, including a goal and assist in the NCAA Tournament. Both are Inside Lacrosse preseason All-Americans (DiMaria third team and Fantoni honorable mention).

The third attackman will likely be sophomore Dan Taylor, who had 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in his rookie campaign. Three of them came on the extra man, including one in the Patriot League Championship Game to get the scoring started. The lefty from Canada scored a pair of goals in three straight games towards the beginning of last season, including three points (two goals, one assist) in a dominant win at Penn.

Classmate and fellow Canadian Patrick Corbett could also see time at attack, but may run in the midfield as well. A midfielder in high school, Corbett played attack last season and impressed, finishing fifth on the team with 23 points (18 goals, five assists) and third with five man-up goals. One highlight came at Navy when he had three goals and an assist to earn National Rookie of the Week honors, just a game after posting four points (two goals, two assists) in a win over Holy Cross.

Lehigh will have to replace seniors Cameron and Roman Lao-Gosney at the midfield, who combined for 48 points a season ago and are now getting a shot with the U.S. National Team, each scoring a goal in the Champion Challenge against Loyola. But even more important than on-field statistics, the Mountain Hawks will have to replace their leadership as they helped set the example and transform the program into a national contender.

One person who has stepped up thus far is their line mate at midfield Brian Hess, already named a team captain in the fall. A natural leader, Hess serves as an extra coach on the field with his leadership. He ran on the first line a season ago and is expected to help anchor the midfield once again. Hess finished last season with 12 points, including his first-career hat trick in the Patriot League Championship Game against Colgate.

“Brian is developing into one of the best leaders this program has ever had,” said Cassese. “He always sets a high example and others have followed suit.”

Corbett could also run at the midfield after starring at that position in high school. There are a number of other candidates to fill out the three lines. A converted attackman, who’s been impressing at midfield, is junior Cody Ferraro. A strong outside shooter, Ferraro posted three points a season ago but has tremendous potential as one of Inside Lacrosse’s top 40 incoming attackmen coming out of high school.

Sophomore Alan Henderson will be in the mix as well following a strong freshman campaign. His ability at both ends of the field (as a defensive midfielder as well) should prove invaluable, especially with the new rules which will increase the speed of play. Henderson finished 2012 with six points via three goals and three assists, scooping eight groundballs and causing three turnovers. The versatile native of Manorville, N.Y. even took a pair of faceoffs last season.

Sophomore Kurtis Kaunas (Parkland) looks to see increased playing time after a solid freshman campaign which saw him score two goals and add an assist. Nicknamed “the water bug” for his quickness and elusiveness, Kaunas saw significant time on man-up and man-down last season, using his speed to his advantage.

Seniors Alex Drake and Kyle Stiefel are both squarely in the mix at midfield as well. Drake played just four games last season, but had 11 points as a sophomore along with 11 groundballs. Stiefel’s highlight came against Maryland in the NCAA Tournament when he posted his first-career hat trick to reach 12 goals for the season. Owning a rocket shot of around 100 miles per hour, Stiefel is also a man-up specialist, tied for the team lead with seven extra man goals a season ago.

Two newcomers who could crack the lineup are sophomore Jack Bogorowski (La Salle) and freshman Ray Mastroianni. Younger brother of Derek Bogorowski (La Salle), Jack played in three games at Johns Hopkins last season as an Inside Lacrosse Rising Senior #45 ranked recruit and #11 ranked midfielder. Meanwhile, Mastroianni is a highly-touted freshman from Martinsville, N.J. who excelled in the 2012 Champion All-American Lacrosse Showcase in Orland, Fla. He was listed among the “10 Who Impressed” at that event by Lacrosse Magazine.

Junior Matt Smith (Conestoga) is a midfielder with big upside, who has four goals and an assist in his career. Two goals came against Manhattan last season while he also tallied vs. Holy Cross and against North Carolina his freshman season.

“We have as much depth at the midfield position as we’ve ever had – a good mix of upperclassmen and younger players. We have talent… We just need some guys to step up, fill specific roles, and find ways to help our team win. I am confident we can make that happen.”

Lehigh returns its core from a defense that rose onto the national scene in 2012, finishing second nationally in goals allowed (only behind Notre Dame). Junior All-American Ty Souders (Emmaus) leads the way. The local product anchors the defense, posting 31 groundballs and 15 caused turnovers last season to earn Third Team USILA All-America honors. A preseason Second Team All-American by Inside Lacrosse, Souders owns 60 career groundballs and 23 caused turnovers in his decorated career.

Alongside Souders is senior Mike Noone (La Salle), who came on last season as a Second Team All-Patriot League honoree. He finished with a career-high 40 groundballs (most among Lehigh close defensemen) and a career-high (and team-leading) 28 caused turnovers. Noone earned Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week honors three times in a four-week span, highlighted by a career-high six groundballs and four caused turnovers in a dramatic win over Bucknell.

Tripp Telesco is a freshman on defense who has been impressive since day one in the fall. Ranked 73rd in Inside Lacrosse’s Power 100 freshmen and 21st in its top 40 defensemen, Telesco has enjoyed a strong preseason after an impressive fall campaign. He led Ridgewood High School (New Jersey) in takeaways and groundballs his final two seasons.

Also competing for playing time at defense are seniors Baxter Lanius and Nathan Hunt, and junior Andrew Mower.

Senior Noah Molnar leads a strong group at short stick defensive midfield, which has been called “arguably the best defensive midfield this side of Loyola.” Molnar was recently selected by Rochester in the Major League Lacrosse Draft as he, Fantoni and DiMaria became the first Mountain Hawks ever selected in the collegiate draft. Molnar finished 2012 with 21 groundballs and 21 caused turnovers (second on the team) while scoring two goals as well.

Alongside Molnar are veterans Jimmy Cahill (a junior) and Derek Bogorowski (a senior). Cahill had a breakout sophomore campaign, playing in all 17 games while scooping 16 groundballs, causing eight turnovers and playing rock-solid defense. Bogorowski has seen significant action from day one, playing 45 of 48 games over his first three seasons.

Sophomore Dylan O’Shaughnessy returns as the starter at long stick defensive midfield. He was in that spot for most of 2012, playing in all 17 games while posting 13 groundballs and 11 caused turnovers. He scored a big goal in the regular season against Army and actually owns the hardest shot on the team at 103 miles per hour.

Other candidates behind O’Shaughnessy include junior Sam Cunard, who returns to the lineup after sitting out last season due to injury. He came on in 2010, especially down the stretch when he played in 10 games with two starts, six groundballs and four caused turnovers.

Junior Bryson Craft (Episcopal Academy) hopes to return to the lineup after missing all of last season due to injury. Freshman Casey Eidenshink (La Salle) and Corey Eppley have been impressive at times as well.

Senior Ryan Snyder (Kent School/Duke’s L.C.) returns as the primary faceoff option after enjoying an up-and-down junior season. Two years ago, he won 62 percent of his draws and scooped a Patriot League record 118 groundballs while last year, he finished at 50 percent with 97 GBs. Despite struggling at times, Snyder had his fair share of highlights, which included a 13-of-20 effort against North Carolina and its All-American R.G. Keenan. Snyder bounced back from a tough outing in the regular season against Colgate to win 15-of-32 in the Patriot League Championship Game, including many clutch wins. He earned All-Patriot League Tournament honors, while also being named Second Team All-League.

Junior Ryan Buttenbaum (Conestoga) has impressed when called upon as well, finishing last season by winning 42 percent (26-of-62) with 16 groundballs. That included a 6-of-10 effort and career-high six groundballs against Manhattan. Buttenbaum won 56 percent as a freshman (15-of-27) and was an Inside Lacrosse top 100 incoming freshman

Sophomore All-American and Patriot League Goalie of the Year Matt Poillon headlines a strong group between the pipes. All three returnees have started at least four collegiate games, while freshman Steve Brodeur (Strath Haven) was ranked as the 13th ranked incoming freshman goalie by Inside Lacrosse.

Poillon made a splash last season, finishing the season with a 6.75 GAA and 59.7 save percentage as one of the nation’s top goalies. He finished the season with perhaps his strongest performance, tying a career high 16 saves against Maryland in the NCAA Tournament, including a number of sensational stops.

Brodeur is a highly touted recruit out of the powerful Central League while seniors Griffin Farha and Dan Carr (Penn Charter) bring experience and leadership to the group.

The identity of the team has drastically changed over the last few years. A predominantly young squad just two years ago has become a team full of upperclassmen, particularly seniors.

“For the first time in my coaching career at Lehigh, we will have a senior heavy squad,” said Cassese. “I always call upon the seniors to go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to leadership. We have a very talented and unique senior class and I look forward to watching them step up in a variety of ways to help the younger players and the team in general find success.”

Even with the large and talented group of seniors, there will be several underclassmen that will play key roles for this team both on and off the field,” Cassese continued. “Overall, it is a very hard-working, driven group of young men that I very much look forward to working with this spring.”

Already this preseason, the team is further along than it’s ever been as the goals for the program continue to rise.

“Having so many veterans, along with consistency in our coaching staff, will allow us to become much more advanced in our schemes and hopefully will allow us to play a more fluid and high paced brand of ball this year,” said Cassese.

Pieces are in place for the 2013 season to be memorable. From a number of rule changes that will make the fastest game on two feet even faster, to an exciting schedule featuring a trip to Denver and home games against UMass, Colgate and Navy (among others), the Lehigh Valley will see some of the nation’s top lacrosse right in their back yards. The Mountain Hawks also face in-state rival Penn State in the Whitman’s Sampler Independence Classic down the road at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

“I’d be lying if I said that being a top 10 team in the country isn’t exciting, but I do realize that it was not attained without a tremendous amount of hard work by an extraordinary amount of people who’ve been in or around the program,” said Cassese. “Now that we have attained it, the mission is to sustain it, and forge forward for more.”



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