Lehigh Lacrosse hosts UMass Wednesday for ESPNU showdown

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Riding two straight wins, the #15/16 Lehigh men’s lacrosse team looks for its first three-game winning streak of the season when it hosts UMass on Wednesday. Opening faceoff is set for 6 p.m. at the Ulrich Sports Complex and will air live nation-wide on ESPNU and WatchESPN as Warrior’s National Game of the Week. Mike Corey, Quint Kessenich and Paul Carcaterra are on the call. It marks Lehigh’s second ESPN game in the last 11 days (along with Penn State on ESPN3) and first ESPN telecast at home since last year’s NCAA Tournament against Maryland.

Wednesday is the first of four Summit Series event presented by Johnny’s Bagels. Admission is five dollars and free with a Lehigh ID.

Wednesday marks the first-ever meeting between Lehigh and UMass. Both sides made the NCAA Tournament a season ago and hosted first round games. The Minutemen are a perennial lacrosse power and made the National Championship Game the last time Championship Weekend was in Philadelphia (where it returns this season). UMass posted a perfect 15-0 record through the regular season and CAA Tournament last season.

Lehigh is coming off a hard-fought 10-6 win at Army on Saturday while UMass dropped a tough 7-5 final to Penn State. The Mountain Hawks’ midfield had a big day, scoring six of their 10 goals led by three from senior Brian Hess (his second-career hat trick). Sophomore Matt Poillon was stellar with 15 saves while allowing just six goals. Senior defenseman Baxter Lanius scooped a career-high five groundballs while sophomore Ty Souders held Army All-American Garrett Thul scoreless on six vs. six (Thul’s only goal came on the extra man). Senior Ryan Snyder won 13-of-17 at the faceoff X with seven groundballs as he moved to fifth in Patriot League history with 281 career groundballs. Seniors Dante Fantoni and David DiMaria extended their point streaks to 50 and 21, respectively. Fantoni needs three goals for 100 in his career while DiMaria needs four assists for 100.

Wednesday marks Lehigh’s final nonleague and midweek game of the season. The Mountain Hawks head to Holy Cross Saturday before hosting Navy, Colgate and Lafayette while and traveling to Bucknell. Wednesday features a showdown between best friends and St. Anthony’s teammates Fantoni of Lehigh and Will Manny of UMass, a Tewaaraton Finalist last season. Two finalists for the sport’s top award come to Lehigh this season (also Tewaaraton winner Peter Baum of Colgate).

Lehigh has already beaten two CAA teams this season in Saint Joseph’s and Penn State.

So far, it’s been a tale of two seasons for UMass, who began 3-0 but has lost four straight since. The Minutemen began the season by Army, #4 North Carolina and Harvard, but have lost to Brown, Albany, Bucknell and Penn State since. Manny was out for five games due to injury but returned last time out against the Nittany Lions. Connor Mooney (12 goals, five assists) and Kyle Smith (11 goals, six assists) are tied for the team lead with 17 points, Matt Whippen has 14 (11 goals, three assists), Andrew Sokol 13 (nine goals, four assists) and Grant Whiteway 12 (eight goals, four assists). Jake Smith leads the close defense with 11 groundballs and six caused turnovers. Joe Calvello has been strong at the faceoff X, winning 83-of-144 (57.6 percent) while Zach Oliveri has impressed between the pipes with a 8.63 GAA and 59.2 save percentage.

Lehigh and UMass have never met.

Following Wednesday’s game, Lehigh heads back into Patriot League play for the rest of the season. The Mountain Hawks head to Holy Cross Saturday for a 3 p.m. faceoff.

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