Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/29.18
From Press Release
After playing a spirited first half, the Lehigh men’s lacrosse team fell victim to a 6-0 second-half run as No. 6/8 Loyola went on to defeat the Mountain Hawks, 15-8 in the Patriot League Championship Game on Sunday at Ridley Athletic Complex.
Lehigh came back from a pair of two-goal first-half deficits to pull even, but the Greyhounds proved too much in the third quarter. Junior Andrew Pettit (Tower Hill-DE) led the Mountain Hawks’ offense with four goals and an assist while classmate Craig Chick had five groundballs and two caused turnovers, finishing the season with 41 caused turnovers to break his own school record of 40 set last year.
Loyola was led defensively by Ryder Harkins (Malvern Prep), who had a groundball while Ryan McNulty (Bishop Shanahan) had a caused turnover.
Sunday marked Lehigh’s third game in six days after defeating Colgate (11-6) and Navy (10-9, overtime) in the Patriot League Quarterfinals and Semifinals, respectively. The Mountain Hawks played in the title game for the fourth time in the last seven years and first time since 2014.
“Loyola is a really good team,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “That’s the number one thing you have to contend with. We knew we were taking the hard road to get to this point (having to play a quarterfinal game). There’s no doubt our guys were feeling it. We didn’t talk about being tired or sore. We didn’t really address it too much other than doing the best we could to get our guys with the trainers. It was pretty obvious that once we got to that third quarter, we were running on fumes.”
Juniors Pettit, Chick and Lucas Spence (Springfield-Delco) were named to the All-Tournament team following the game. Spence tallied a goal and assist Sunday, less than 48 hours after recording five points, including the game-winning goal in Friday’s overtime victory.
Junior Tristan Rai added three points (one goal, two assists) while sophomore Andrew Eichelberger scored twice. Sophomore Conor Gaffney (Lenape-NJ) finished 14-of-24 in the faceoff circle with six groundballs.
After Loyola took an early 2-0 lead, unassisted goals from Spence and Rai pulled Lehigh even heading into the second quarter. The two-goal surges continued as the Greyhounds scored at 11:56 and 11:06, but Lehigh answered. Pettit scored in transition at 9:49 then Pettit found Eichelberger with a nifty pass, pulling even at four with 6:34 on the clock.
The Greyhounds took a 5-4 lead at the 1:58 mark, but off the ensuing faceoff, Gaffney found Pettit to pull Lehigh even once again.
Still tied at five early in the third quarter, Loyola’s Kevin Lindley opened the scoring at the 12:52 mark. That began a run of six goals in the span of 4:32. Eichelberger stopped the bleeding at 7:16, but Loyola scored four of the next five goals to erase any doubt.
“They had a few in transition and a couple off the faceoff; that’s when the game started to get away from us a little bit,” said Cassese. “The first half went to script for us. We were able to possess the ball a bunch, made a few stops and were able to get some long possessions. We were thrilled as a coaching staff to be 5-5 at halftime. We needed that script to continue in the third, but obviously, it got away from us.”
Final shots were 37-27 in favor of Loyola while Lehigh held a 32-31 edge in groundballs. Freshman James Spence (Springfield-Delco) finished with 10 saves, allowing 13 goals. The Mountain Hawks were 1-for-1 on the extra man to finish the season at 63.4 percent (26-of-41), the second-highest percentage in NCAA history. In the end, Lehigh finished its season with a 10-7 record, reaching double-figure wins for the first time since 2014. The Mountain Hawks have posted double-figure victories four times in the last seven years after just four times in the first 112 years of program history.
“I’m incredibly proud of our guys,” said Cassese. “I didn’t want them to be content to getting to this stage. That was clear in my message. I am really proud of the fact that the seniors were able to lead us back to this stage, along with this junior class. Having not been to this stage in the last three years, to get us back to the stage, it hopefully sets the table.
“Now, our junior class steps up this senior role, having been there, done that, been so close, but tasted defeat. My sense, knowing these guys, it’s going to motivate them incredibly to work hard in the offseason to try and get back here with a different result.”
The Mountain Hawks return a strong core of talent in 2018, highlighted by the current junior class which features Lehigh’s top three scorers in Pettit, Spence and Rai who combined for 172 points this season (104 goals, 68 assists). Chick, junior Eddie Bouhall and freshman Teddy Leggett are among Lehigh’s returnees defensively after combining for 85 caused turnovers this season, most in the nation among three teammates. Gaffney, a 2018 first team All-Patriot League honoree, returns in the faceoff circle while James Spence returns in goal after tallying a 9.08 goals against average and 0.498 save percentage during his freshman campaign.
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