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.@LehighLacrosse senior Spence (@sprlax) began his path to college standout at Springfield Youth program

Wednesday, 19th December 2018

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Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 12/19/18
By Meagan Eripret ’19, Lehigh Sports Information

Lehigh senior Lucas Spence’s game-winning overtime goal in the 2018 Patriot League semifinals was a goal 13 years in the making, and he hopes to build on that success for the 2019 season.

Lucas Spence

Spence – a Springfield-Delco grad – started playing lacrosse for Springfield’s youth program in second grade and hasn’t looked back.

It wasn’t until fifth grade that he decided he wanted to play in college. He had started playing for a local club team, HEADstrong, and all of his coaches were college players, so he wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese was drawn to recruit Spence by his competitive style of play.

“Lucas can dodge, he can score, he can pass and he always makes others around him better,” Cassese said. “But above all else, he is a warrior. That is evident in how hard he rides and how many groundballs he picks up. Even though he is a star attackman, he gives the effort of a defensive midfielder.”

Spence’s freshman year at Lehigh was far from perfect. He earned a starting spot to begin the season, but he lost his spot. For the second half of the season, he worked on the scout team, improved his game and managed to earn back some playing time. The ups and downs of that season taught him about himself and college lacrosse.

By his sophomore season, he had reclaimed his starting position on the first midfield line. He took confidence in his role and his ability to contribute to a team that finished 7-7 and reached its seventh straight Patriot League Tournament.

After two admittedly average seasons personally and for the program, Spence and his fellow classmates wanted to get their program back to the top of the league. They knew they had a strong returning group with plenty of game experience who played well together.

Spence had a core of classmates he had been playing with for the two previous years of his college career, but his junior season brought a teammate he’d known even longer: his brother James. James Spence came in as a freshman goalie, played in every game and started all but one of them. Since Lucas is an attackman and James is a goalie, they challenged each other all season.

“Playing with James is always a lot of fun,” Lucas said. “Being on opposite ends of the field, we are always competing against each other in practice, trying to make each other better for the games.”

The healthy competition only benefits their relationship, and it also makes life easier for their parents since it minimizes the schedules they have to follow.

“As competitive as it gets in practice, we are always very close off the field,” Lucas said. “Plus, I think it’s great for my parents too, because they love seeing us play together.”

The team’s chemistry showed. Over their first nine games, the Mountain Hawks went 7-2, with both losses being slim one-goal defeats against ranked teams. Spence scored two goals in the 12-11 overtime loss to No. 13/14 UNC and scored two more in the 8-7 loss to No.18/16 Rutgers.

Spence spent his first two seasons as midfielder, so his junior season was his first as a full-time attackman. That change didn’t affect him. He scored a career-high six goals against Holy Cross and scored four goals on three different occasions.

At the end of the regular season, the team hit a small bump in the road, losing three of its last four games. That didn’t discourage Spence. His teammates and he regained their momentum with an 11-6 win over Colgate in the Patriot League Quarterfinals.

The Mountain Hawks had three days to prepare for the semifinal game against No. 11/13 and second-seeded Navy. Spence said his teammates knew they belonged in the championship because of how hard they had worked all season.

The semifinal was back-and-forth for the entire game. Neither team was ahead by more than a goal, after Lehigh’s response to Navy’s quick 2-0 lead two minutes in. The game was tied at nine with 4:39 remaining, but neither team could pull ahead before time ran out in regulation.

Sudden victory overtime can be stressful, knowing the next goal ends the game. If your opponent scores first, you don’t have the opportunity to respond. But Spence wasn’t shaken. He knew his role on the team was to create as much offense as possible, so he wanted to make that happen.

It would ultimately take only 42 seconds for him to create the goal that would extend their season another game.

“When we won the opening faceoff in overtime, I was very excited. Our faceoff unit gave the offense a chance to win the game and we did not want to let that slip away. Scoring that goal was an awesome feeling. I didn’t really see the ball go in the net, but as soon as I saw [John Mehok]’s reaction, I knew it went. Being in the pile with all the guys celebrating is something I’ll never forget.”

Spence’s overtime goal propelled the Mountain Hawks into their first Patriot League final since 2014. After a hard-fought first half, they fell 15-8 to No. 6/8 and first-seeded Loyola, finishing the season 10-7. Lehigh finished a strong season, but Spence and his teammates aren’t satisfied.

“I was disappointed after the loss against Loyola; to be that close to a championship and not succeed is an awful feeling,” Spence said. “But for all the guys returning, we are now very hungry to get back to the championship game and win this time. I know this senior class wants to be playing lacrosse in May and the upper and underclassmen all know what kind of commitment is needed.”

In the end, Spence had the best season of his Lehigh career in 2018, but Cassese wasn’t surprised by his emergence.

“A lot of people will say Lucas Spence came out of nowhere with the success he experienced last spring, but that is not the case at all,” Cassese said. “He just worked really hard for a long period of time and showed a ton of resilience and persistence, which led to a breakthrough season. He deserved it because he worked hard for it.”

Instead of dwelling about the loss, Spence looked forward to his senior season. The future started with the offseason.

“This offseason was very important to the team as a whole,” Spence said. “We made sure everyone on the team was completing the summer workout packet our strength coach sent us home with, as well as running and getting the sticks in the hand as much as possible.”

Spence spent the summer working at Penn Medicine as a corporate finance intern for the patient accounting department. In addition to working on his own lacrosse game, he coached a seventh and eighth grade club team in his town, passing on his knowledge and passion for the sport.

Cassese has seen the impact Spence’s personality can have on a team. Spence’s impact should only grow in 2019.

“Lucas has always done an amazing job setting the example for his teammates,” Cassese said. “His incredible work ethic and positive attitude are infectious. He has emerged this year as a vocal leader and has been an unbelievable mentor to the young players on this team. His growth as a leader has been evident, which is why it was not a surprise that he was selected as an assistant captain for the upcoming season.”

There is no doubt Spence will thrive in a leadership role as a senior. Even when asked about personal goals for his senior year, all he could do was talk about wanting a championship for his classmates.

“Our goal the last four years has been to win the Patriot League Championship and it will be the same thing again this upcoming season,” Spence said. “The senior class is the largest class on the team and we don’t want to leave Lehigh without a ring. After losing in the championship last year, everyone will be playing with a chip on their shoulders. The sense of urgency is very high to ensure we get back to the championship game, but come away with a win.”

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