March 20, 2012

Road-Tested Lehigh Beats Penn State in Happy Valley

by Zack Neiner | LaxMagazine.comLive Blog Replay

Junior attackman Dante Fantoni had two goals and two assists Tuesday, as No. 11 Lehigh topped No. 16 Penn State 9-5. The Mountain Hawks are now 5-0 on the road in 2012.

© Kevin P. Tucker

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- With Lehigh's Cinderella run coming to an end in the NCAA basketball tournament and the wrestling championships concluding, the magic surrounding school might have faded. But one team still has it.

The No. 11 Lehigh men's lacrosse team scored nine of the game's final 12 goals to defeat No. 17 Penn State 9-5 Tuesday night at the new Penn State Lacrosse Field.

The Nittany Lions set the tune early with two quick goals scored by attackmen Jack Forster and Shane Sturgis. "We came out strong, came out fast and firing on all cylinders," Penn State junior midfielder Danny Henneghan said. "To be honest, I'm not really sure what happened."

Lehigh battled back to tied the game at 3 despite four first-half penalties.

"[At halftime] I said to the guys, 'Listen, It's not about adjustments right now. Honestly, all we need is the ball,'" said Mountain Hawks head coach Kevin Cassese. "We were losing all the faceoffs -- we had three violations right off the bat -- and we were going to the penalty box. So we just didn't have the ball to play any offense. So I said, 'Listen, we need to roll our sleeves up, hit the ground and get the ground balls. Win some faceoffs, and we need to stop going to the penalty box.'"

Message received. Lehigh won the first faceoff of the third quarter to set up junior attackman Dante Fantoni (two goals, two assists) at the point. Fantoni found freshman attackman Patrick Corbett with a spot feed for a goal that put the Mountain Hawks up 4-3.

Penn State committed six penalties compared to Lehigh's two in the second half. Lehigh, boasting the nation's third-most efficient extra-man offense, took advantage with three man-up goals (4-for-7 overall).

"Every game is different, and you've got to win games in different ways," Cassese said. "We've been doing it on the defensive end for a while. I think our extra man was really important today, especially because we couldn't get much going on the offensive end."

Penn State players expressed frustration over the penalty trouble.

"I have no idea," Sturgis said when asked to explain the penalty differential.

"It's easy to say the refs weren't in our favor. But at the end of the day, it comes back on us," Henneghan said. "We need to play smarter and not take dumb penalties like we did tonight."

Lehigh's defense allowed just three goals over the final 55:24 to solidify its seventh straight victory, the team's longest winning streak since 1969. Four of the wins have come over ranked squads (Penn, North Carolina, Yale and Penn State), while the Mountain Hawks' 8-1 record marks their best start since that same '69 season .Lehigh also snapped a 14-game losing streak against Penn State, defeating the Nittany Lions for the first time since 1971.

"The thing I'm most impressed with is we're 5-0 on the road," Cassese said. "We've played in some pretty tough environments, and this was no different."

The Nittany Lions have lost three straight games to fall to 3-4.

"We play how we practice, and it all starts with practice. Our next practice we got to hit the ground running," Henneghan said.

Seniors Roman Lao-Gosney and Adam Johnston added two goals each for Lehigh, while junior David DiMaria posted three points (one goal, two assists). Freshman goalie Matt Poillon made 10 saves.

Penn State held the final edge in shots (30-28) and ground balls (22-20). The Nittany Lions also controlled the faceoffs, winning 13 of 17.

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