Eighth-Seeded Lehigh to Face Rutgers in First Round of NCAA Tournament Saturday
BETHLEHEM, PA. – With a 10-1 aggregate victory, the Lehigh men’s lacrosse team reached number 8 in the NCAA tournament and will face Rutgers in the first round at UVA’s Klöckner Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia. The competition will take place on Saturday, May 15th at 2:30 p.m. on ESPNU. The Mountain Hawks received automatic Patriot League qualification on Sunday morning when Loyola withdrew from their Tier 1 testing pool from the championship game due to a positive COVID-19 test.
“This is such an interesting matchup from so many different perspectives,” said Lehigh’s head coach Kevin Cassese. “This is actually a team that we’ve had rooted as a team all year round. And the reason for that is because there’s a lot of familiarity. Colin Kirst, who played for us, is now a fifth year with Rutgers and he has one incredible year. We cheered Colin on from here in Bethlehem. His brother Connor who was in Villanova joined him in Rutgers. And of course we have Cole on our team.
“I’ve been writing with her mom for the last half an hour. Their reactions are all over the card – from excitement to nerves. It’s going to be a pretty cool spectacle to have these three brothers in the same field together at the NCAA.”
This is Lehigh’s first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2013 and the third in program history. In 2012, the Mountain Hawks were number 7 and home to Maryland. A year later, they were not sown and traveled to North Carolina with the fifth seed. Lehigh is 0-2 in these games but lost a close 10-9 final against the Terps, which went back to the last few seconds.
This year’s NCAA tournament first round games will be played in four different locations – Maryland (College Park), Virginia (Charlottesville), North Carolina (Chapel Hill), and Denver.
The 2021 Mountain Hawks own the nation’s second highest percentage of profits at 90.9. They started the season 9-0 and joined a program record winning streak within one season (discontinued in 2012). Lehigh’s 13-game winning streak from 2020 marked a programming record (and was the longest streak in the nation until the Mountain Hawks’ only loss that season on May 1). This season, Lehigh has won a program record of eight Patriot League games, while finishing the regular season (and postseason) unbeaten against league opponents for the first time since 2013 and only for the second time in program history.
The Mountain Hawks and Scarlet Knights last played in 2019, a 13:10 victory for Lehigh, in which Tommy Schelling scored the starting goal with 2:19. The year before, Rutgers had entered a close 8: 7 final in Bethlehem.
“During the recruitment process, we are fishing from the same pond and we are definitely recruiting the same areas,” said Cassese. “There is a lot of familiarity there. At the end of the day it will be fun. It will be very competitive. Lots of kids getting to know each other and then the underlying story of the Kirst family.”
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