Phillylacrosse.com, posted 4/18/21
From Press Release
The No. 7 Lehigh men’s lacrosse team held off a feisty Lafayette squad on Sunday, winning 14-11 for its second win over the Leopards in three days, to clinch the No. 1 overall seed in next month’s Patriot League Tournament.
Junior Mike Sisselberger (Southern Lehigh) – the nation’s leading faceoff specialist – was again the story, winning 23-of-27 faceoffs with a program and league-record 21 groundballs, breaking his own record set two days earlier at Lafayette. Sisselberger, who scored his fourth goal of the year, has won an almost impossible 152 of 191 draws for a .796 winning percentage.
Now 8-0 on the season and 7-0 in the league, the Mountain Hawks are off to their best start in program history while their seven Patriot League wins are also a program record.
“The faceoff game was rally strong for us today,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “Mikey Sisselberger winning so many faceoffs and picking up so many groundballs, breaking his own record was really impressive. Quite frankly, today we needed it. I thought Lafayette did a great job of bringing the fight to us at both ends of the field and I thought in many respects, they outplayed us.
“We really needed our faceoff unit to be on point and thankfully, they were,” Cassese continued. “They gave us a lot more possessions than Lafayette and we were able to make a few more plays than they were. Our faceoff unit was definitely the stars of the game.”
The win marked the program-record 116th of Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese’s 14-year career, as he passed John McCloskey into sole possession of first place in career victories.
“I’m obviously thrilled to be able to get the win,” said Cassese. “I can go back to my core values and my core values came from my parents. In particular, I remember my mom saying to me as I was growing up that anything worth doing was worth doing right. Trying to get that record of being the winningest coach in the history of Lehigh Lacrosse, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on my radar.
“Very grateful that Lehigh first and foremost took a shot on me, as a young kid, 26 years old, allowing me to be a head coach,” Cassese continued. “Then being loyal to me, and I feel like I’ve been loyal to them right back. I certainly wouldn’t be able to do it without the people around me (players, assistant coaches, administrators, etc.). I feel very grateful and definitely happy, but more excited to move forward and get 117.”
For Lafayette (0-10), Peter Lehman (Council Rock North) had four goals and an assist as well as three groundballs and a caused turnover. Evan Lotz (Malvern Prep) had a goal and Charlie Cunniffe (Episcopal Academy) had an assist.
Sunday was also Senior Day as the Mountain Hawks’ class (of nine seniors and four fifth-year seniors) was recognized prior to the game.
Sophomore Christian Mule’ led the offense with four points via three goals and one assist. Graduate student Andrew Eichelberger scored three times for his first hat trick of the season and fourth of his career.
After Lafayette pulled even 2:31 into the contest, the Mountain Hawks responded with the next six goals. Two of the goals were scored by Mule, including a behind-the-back score, as Lehigh took a 7-1 lead midway through the second quarter.
Like they did on Friday, the Leopards answered. Lafayette scored six of the next eight goals to pull within 9-7 after a man-up goal midway through the third quarter. Sisselberger’s fourth goal of the season helped spark a 3-1 Lehigh run, as senior Kevin Gersbeck from junior Cole Kirst gave the Mountain Hawks a 12-8 lead heading to the fourth.
The Leopards had another run in them, getting within 12-11 with more than nine minutes still remaining, but graduate student Crew Cintron scored a big goal at the 8:21 mark then Eichelberger iced it with his third of the game in the final minutes, good for the 14-11 final.
Final shots were 48-28 in favor of Lehigh while the Mountain Hawks held a 40-31 edge in groundballs. Senior James Spence (Springfield-Delco) made 10 saves across Lafayette’s Ryan Ness, who made 14.
“I thought our shooting was subpar today,” said Cassese. “I think part of that was due to their goaltender and I think part of that was due to our lack of focus in shooting. I felt like there were points when we could have blown the game wide open and our lack of attention to detail in our shooting didn’t allow us to do that. It allowed Lafayette to hang in there and eventually make it a really close game in the end.”
Lehigh will return home on Saturday as the Mountain Hawks close out their Patriot League slate by hosting Bucknell at 12 p.m.