From the Lehigh Press Release:
VILLANOVA, Pa. – Despite a stellar 4-0 run bridging the second and third quarters, Villanova responded with a 4-0 run of its own to hand the Lehigh men’s lacrosse team a heartbreaking 9-8 loss on Saturday afternoon at Villanova Stadium. Down by two with 13:54 remaining in the fourth, junior Adam Johnston pulled Lehigh within one, then had a pair of chances in the final minute – including a bounce shot which went wide as time expired.
“Both teams played hard,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “The game was determined in the third quarter. We had a little bit of a lapse and they stuck it to us. They beat us in transition, which was the difference in the game.”
After Villanova took a 4-2 lead in the first quarter, Lehigh’s defense bore down, holding the Wildcats scoreless for 21:41, allowing the offense to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead.
Johnston led the offensive attack with his seventh-career hat trick. Sophomore Noah Molnar was stellar all game, recording a career-high two points (one goal, one assist) while impressing on the faceoff wing. Sophomores David DiMaria (one goal, one assist) and Dante Fantoni (career-high two assists) also finished with multiple points. He was active on defense as well, causing a pair of turnovers while scooping three ground balls.
Sophomore Ryan Snyder impressed once again at faceoff, winning 16-of-21 at the X, while recording 11 ground balls for the second consecutive week. He also got Lehigh on the board with his first-career goal. Fellow sophomore Dan Carr was strong in goal, posting seven saves – including numerous sensational stops during Lehigh’s run.
Villanova’s Kevin Cunningham got the scoring started at 12:08 of the first quarter, but Snyder won the ensuing faceoff and went straight to goal where he converted his first-career tally only seven seconds later.
Lehigh then took its first lead at 10:39 when DiMaria fired a low rocket from just outside the crease to put the Mountain Hawks up, 2-1.
The Wildcats responded at 8:28 when Will Casertano finished a nice feed from Cunningham to even the score at two. They then added two more, at 6:56 and 6:09, to open a 4-2 advantage.
Sophomore Brian Hess ended the run and a 10:23 scoreless streak, taking a nice feed from Molnar and beating Villanova goaltender Billy Hurley low to pull within 4-3.
Johnston evened the score at four at 14:08 of the second quarter, taking a feed from Fantoni and finishing in front of the net to even the score at four.
It looked like Villanova would take a lead at 7:52, but Carr made a spectacular save on Cunningham. Lehigh capitalized just over a minute later when senior Jonathan Stumpf finished an unassisted tally to put the Mountain Hawks back on top, 5-4, with 6:43 remaining.
Carr and the Lehigh defense continued a strong quarter when he made yet another point blank save on Casertano on a man-up opportunity. That kept the score at 5-4 heading to halftime.
Lehigh started the second half right where it left off as Johnston finished his second of the afternoon, taking a high feed from Fantoni and rocketing one past Hurley with 12:48 on the clock.
Villanova’s Nick Doherty ended over a 20 minute scoreless drought at 11:19 of the third quarter, to pull the Wildcats back within 6-5, but Molnar helped Lehigh regain a 7-5 lead with 7:47 remaining.
Matt Bell pulled Villanova within 7-6 with 5:09 remaining while the Wildcats converted a pair of transition, unsettled situations late in the quarter, including a backbreaker with 0.1 seconds remaining, to help them regain an 8-7 advantage heading into the fourth.
Villanova made it 9-7 with 13:54 to go, but Johnston ended nearly a 14 minute scoreless drought, taking a nifty feed from DiMaria and finishing the point blank chance with 7:14 remaining.
The Mountain Hawks had a number of chances over the final minutes, holding a 9-3 fourth-quarter shot advantage, but were unable to convert. Senior Richard Bradley caused a key Wildcat turnover with 1:26 remaining, giving Lehigh one last chance. The Mountain Hawks had three opportunities in the final minute, but each went for naught, including Johnston’s bounce shot as time expired.
Lehigh led the final shot count, 34-26, while also scooping 27 ground balls to 19 for the Wildcats. The Mountain Hawks won 16-of-21 faceoffs while successfully clearing 14-of-15 chances.
The Mountain Hawks return to action next Tuesday (Mar. 1) when they host Navy in the Patriot League opener. Opening faceoff at the Ulrich Sports Complex is set for 7 p.m.