April 21, 2010

Lehigh Stuns No. 9 Villanova in Double OT

from press release

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – In a wildly entertaining back-and-forth lacrosse game, Lehigh shocked No. 9 Villanova on Tuesday evening by a score of 15-14 in double overtime at the Ulrich Sports Complex. Freshman Dante Fantoni capped off a four-goal performance with his score at the 1:24 mark of the second OT to lift Lehigh to a dramatic victory over the Wildcats.

The win improves Lehigh to 7-7 on the season and Villanova is the highest ranked opponent the Mountain Hawks have beaten since downing No. 7 Georgetown in 1997. With the loss the Wildcats fall to 8-4.

"I thought our guys played hard and they scrapped until the end," Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese said afterwards. "It would have been easy for us to fold and to pack it in, but give our guys credit, they are a resilient bunch." He continued, "We still have a couple of the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year left on the table. Our guys wanted to finish above .500 and a big goal is to beat Lafayette so from this point forward all of our focus turns to Lafayette."

Villanova out shot Lehigh for the game 43-34, with Jack Rice taking nine of the Wildcats attempts. The Mountain Hawks scooped up 29 ground balls on the evening led by Fantoni, Evan Guerrero and Dan Carr with four apiece, while Will Scudder won eight face-offs. Carr finished with a career-high 19 saves, including several huge stops on point blank shots in the overtime periods.

"He was unbelievable," Cassese said in reference to Carr. "He had sort of a slow start, but he hung in there and made some huge plays down the stretch. Dan has had a tough second half to this season but I could tell in the locker room before the game tonight that this one meant a lot to him. I really feel great for him, he deserves this."

Nolan Vihlen won 22 of 33 face-offs for the Wildcats and also scooped up eight ground balls, while Chris Ficke caused three turnovers. Billy Hurley got the start in goal and stopped seven shots in 59 minutes of action, while Dan Gutierrez played eight minutes in relief.

Paul Webber put Villanova on top with his goal 49 seconds into the opening quarter, but Lehigh's Noah Molnar scored his first goal of the season just 22 seconds later to tie things at one. Webber and Rice netted back-to-back scores for the visitors to give the Wildcats a 3-1 lead, but senior Taylor Castagna found the back of the net off a feed from Roman Lao-Gosney at the 8:09 mark of the quarter to pull Lehigh within one.

C.J. Small put the Wildcats back up by two when he scored with 7:33 on the quarter clock, but the Mountain Hawks reeled off three straight goals to end the quarter, including two from Adam Johnston and one from Rich Bradley as the Mountain Hawks surged on top 5-4 after one quarter of play.

Rice opened the second with a goal less than two minutes in to tie things at five before Fantoni registered back-to-back scores to put the Mountain Hawks on top 7-5 with 12:54 left before halftime. Villanova closed the quarter with a 3-0 run however and the visitors took an 8-7 lead into intermission.

Michael Vigilante gave Villanova a 9-7 lead with his goal 54 seconds into the third quarter, but Johnston scored his 21st goal of the season with 8:07 to play and Lehigh was within one. Rice then gave the Wildcats another two-goal advantage when he found the back of the net with 7:16 on the clock but from there Lehigh seized control and unleashed a 4-0 run to close out the quarter and take a 12-10 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Jonathan Stumpf, Baxter Lanius, Johnston and Cameron Lao-Gosney all scored during the run as the Mountain Hawks outscore the Wildcats 5-2 in the quarter. "We've been a good starting team, and we've been trying to pick our play up in the middle of the game where we have struggled at times," Cassese explained. "But it's all about how we finish and tonight we kept fighting, kept competing and were able to eventually end this one the right way."

Fantoni and Cameron Lao-Gosney scored goals in the first two minutes of the final quarter as Lehigh went on top 14-10 with 12:56 to play, but that proved to be the Mountain Hawks final scoring in regulation as Villanova slowly chipped away at the Lehigh lead. Webber's goal with 1:43 tied things at 14, but neither team was able to score for the remainder of regulation and so they headed for overtime.

After a scoreless first overtime session the teams headed for a second where Fantoni capped off a terrific performance with his goal at the 1:24 mark. The entire Lehigh sideline emptied out onto the field and rushed towards Fantoni as the Mountain Hawks celebrated their biggest win under Cassese. "To be honest I hadn't even thought about that," Cassese said. "But that's not important to me; it's all about these guys and the effort they showed tonight. I'm just extremely happy for every player on the roster."

Cassese offered his thoughts on Lehigh's play on Senior Night. "That was the message tonight, to play for our seniors. They started it off the right way, leading by example. Taylor Castagna gets an early goal and then later in the game John Henry McNierney picks up a huge ground ball so terrific effort from those guys. And then the young guys step up late and help us get this one. I'm impressed by this team as a whole; they battled and battled and were rewarded with a win."

Lehigh returns to action on Saturday evening as the Mountain Hawks travel to Easton to take on their archrivals, the Lafayette Leopards. Game time is set for 7:00 from inside Lafayette's Fisher Stadium.


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