Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/28/21 – From Press Release
Playing its first game in nearly a full calendar year, the No. 17 Lehigh men’s lacrosse erased any doubt early, opening a 13-1 first-half lead, on the way to an impressive 24-10 win over NJIT Saturday afternoon at the Ulrich Sports Complex.
It marked the first time the Mountain Hawks scored 20 goals since the 2016 season opener when they scored 21 (also against NJIT). The 24 goals were Lehigh’s most in any game since a 25-3 win at VMI to open the 1997 season.
“I was impressed with the way we came out,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “We certainly had a fast start that was indicative of not being able to play a game in over 358 days. I was proud of the guys for the way they came out, proud of the effort and proud of the leadership we had.”
Fourteen different Mountain Hawks scored a goal, including the first-career goals from six – senior Denny Nealon (Garnet Valley), sophomores Andrew Mapstone and Mike Sisselberger (Southern Lehigh), and freshmen Aiden Decker, Scott Cole and Quinn Armstrong. Cole and Armstrong each finished with a hat trick.
Sophomore Christian Mule’ tallied a career-high six points via four goals and six assists. Junior Tommy Schelling finished with two goals and a career-high five assists, all coming in the first half. Sophomore Justin Tiernan recorded career highs in goals (2) and points (3).
“Our offense did a nice job sharing the ball today,” said Cassese. “They weren’t concerned about their own points. They were just worried about the Lehigh offense scoring points. Defensively, they did a nice job with limited possessions on defense. Sometimes, you can have a tendency to get complacent and get cold, but I thought they were up to the task.”
A pretty clean game, especially for February after such a long layoff, saw only 21 combined turnovers (13 for NJIT, eight for Lehigh). The Mountain Hawks caused eight of the Highlanders’ turnovers, led by a pair from graduate student Christian McHugh. Meanwhile, Sisselberger finished 16-of-22 facing off with a career-high 10 groundballs. Senior Teddy Leggett collected six groundballs.
“Mikey really stepped up today and took a bulk of the work load,” said Cassese. “He was exceptional and it really tilted the field in our favor. It allowed us to get a lot of offensive sets and not play a lot of defense. I thought Mikey was spectacular today.”
Matt Marker (Allentown Central Catholic) had a goal and an assist and freshman faceoff specialist Matt Brock (Perkiomen Valley) was 6 of 15 for the Mountain Hawks from the X.
Sophomore Cole Kirst opened the scoring less than three minutes in, finishing a feed from graduate student Cintron. Cintron then assisted Mule’ less than two minutes later. It was the start of an onslaught of first-half goals, with the Mountain Hawks leading 9-1 after one, 13-1 late in the second quarter and 15-3 at the half.
The goals continued in the third quarter. The Mountain Hawks held a 7-2 edge in the stanza, which began with a Tiernan man-up goal just 11 seconds in. Lehigh held a 21-5 lead heading to the fourth and 24-10 advantage when the fourth-quarter clock hit zero.
For the game, the Mountain Hawks held a 54-34 edge in shots and 44-29 advantage in groundballs. Senior goaltender James Spence (Springfield-Delco) stopped four-of-eight shots sent his way before being relieved by freshmen Nick Pecora (four saves, five goals allowed) and Will Deskey (one save, one goal allowed).
Lehigh will open Patriot League play next Saturday by hosting No. 12 Loyola in a big top-20 showdown at 1 p.m.
“Loyola is excellent,” said Cassese. “Year in and year out, they’re the consistent power within our league. We’re going to have to raise our level. It was a good start today, but we know we have a lot of work to do in order to compete with the Hounds.”