Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/1/19
From Press Release
The No. 13 ranked Lehigh men’s lacrosse team is set to open a much-anticipated 2019 season on Saturday when it faces NJIT. The game was originally scheduled to be played at NJIT, but has been moved to Lehigh’s Ulrich Sports Complex with opening faceoff set for 1 p.m.
The Mountain Hawks, who are set to open their season against the Highlanders for a fourth straight season, are coming off a memorable 2018 campaign which saw them reach the Patriot League Championship Game for the first time since 2014 and fourth time in seven years.
Last season saw Lehigh begin 7-2, with its only losses coming vs. ranked North Carolina (on the road) and Rutgers (at home), each by a single goal. The Mountain Hawks lost four of their next five, with the win being a big 7-6 victory at Boston University. Reeling a bit heading into the postseason, Lehigh responded by beating Colgate in convincing fashion in the Patriot League Quarterfinals (11-6) before picking up a thrilling 10-9 overtime win over No. 11/13 ranked Navy in the semifinals. The Mountain Hawks then stood tied against No. 6/8 Loyola at the half of the championship game, but the Greyhounds pulled away in the second.
A positive for Lehigh is that a veteran team returns this season, looking to use the postseason experience and build upon the success. A tremendous senior class leads the way, which includes all three starters at attack and close defense. The Mountain Hawks feature a league-high five preseason All-Patriot League honorees in seniors Eddie Bouhall, Craig Chick and Andrew Pettit (Tower Hill, DE), along with junior Conor Gaffney (Lenape, NJ) and sophomore Teddy Leggett. Lehigh also features the No. 8 ranked incoming freshman class in the Inside Lacrosse Face-Off Yearbook.
The Mountain Hawks came in at No. 2 in IL’s ranking of specialists (goaltender, faceoff and defensive midfielders). Lehigh features Chick, who has played both close defense and long-stick midfield in his career, and was even named a first team preseason All-American by Inside Lacrosse at LSM. Chick has played more close D lately, due in large part to the emergence of Leggett, who ended his rookie campaign with 61 groundballs and 20 caused turnovers, no play larger than his groundball off the first faceoff of overtime. That gave Lehigh possession, leading into Spence’s game-winning goal just moments later.
Lehigh is in the midst of some impressive success, dating back to 2011. The Mountain Hawks are the only team to qualify for each of the last eight Patriot League Tournaments. Despite three “down” years (by their standards) in 2015, 2016 and 2017, they still reached the postseason with a chance to do damage. Going into 2019, Lehigh has reached four of the last seven Patriot League Championship Games, winning two.
The Mountain Hawks will be vying for their fourth straight season-opening win on Saturday. Ever since a 10-9 loss vs. Marquette, Lehigh has beaten NJIT in 2016 (21-4), 2017 (15-5) and 2018 (13-8). After Saturday, the Mountain Hawks will host Hofstra next Saturday before wrapping up a challenging much at preseason top 10 Virginia (Feb. 16) and Cornell (Feb. 24).
Entering its fifth year as a Division I program, NJIT finished 1-15 last season, but was very competitive. The Highlanders dropped slim finals to Lafayette (10-8) and VMI (11-9) while playing competitively vs. Lehigh (13-8) and Delaware (11-6), among others. NJIT’s lone win was over Hampton on Senior Day, 15-8. The team’s top four scorers from last season all return in Aaron Forster (43 points: 30 goals, 13 assists), Cole Robillard (27 points: 20 goals, seven assists), Ryan Darrow (20 points; 14 goals, six asssits) and Ryan Kaden (17 points: eight goals, nine assists). Starting goaltender Nick Marzullo graduated, but Alexanzander Hunt, who started two games last season, does return after recording a 13.85 goals against average and 0.494 save percentage.
Lehigh leads the all-time series vs. NJIT, winning in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 season openers by scores of 21-4, 15-5 and 13-8, respectively.
Following Saturday’s season opener, the Mountain Hawks will host Hofstra on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 3 p.m. in the second game of a doubleheader with the Lehigh women.