No. 8 Mountain Hawks Fall Short in NCAA Tournament to No. 9 Rutgers, 12-5
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. – Rutgers in ninth took advantage of a 3-0 in the second quarter to create a split, and the Lehigh men’s # 8 lacrosse team got no closer than three in the second half when the Mountain Hawks drew a 12-5 lost the final in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday in the Klöckner Stadium of the UVA. Junior faceoff specialist Mike Sisselberger won 15 of 19 faceoffs with 11 groundballs and ended the season with 79.5 percent – a new record in NCAA Division I. He also ended the season with 160 groundballs, a new Patriot League and one Program brand.
“Obviously disappointed to come out defeated today, but I thought our boys fought really hard,” said Lehigh head coach Kevin Cassese. “We tried to slow them down a bit today. They are so good at coming out of transition and I thought we did a good job [at containing them]. I thought we gave each other a chance to fight.
Senior James Spence finished the game with 17 saves and Rutgers’ Colin Kirst (who played with Lehigh for four years before joining Rutgers for the fifth time).
“Their defense was excellent at the end of the day,” said Cassese. “Colin played really well in goal. Thirty-four combined saves. I’m really proud of these two guys.”
Spence has dwarfed 500 career savings, making it the fourth goalkeeper in program history to hit that mark.
Offensively, Junior Cole Kirst scored a goal for his brother, but five of Colin’s 17 saves came against Cole. On Saturday three Kirsts competed (including Rutgers’ Connor, who scored three goals).
Sophomore Justin Tiernan scored one of his two team-level goals just 1:02 in the competition, but the Mountain Hawks only scored twice in the next 49:25. On the starting grid, newcomer Scott Cole equalized the first quarter result with two links due to an injury to Lehigh’s top scorer Tommy Schelling.
Rutgers separated in the middle quarter and held a 3-0 lead in the second and a 3-1 lead in the third. Cole Kirst pulled Lehigh within 6-3 with 5:12 in the third, but that’s as close as the Mountain Hawks would come. Sophomore Ryan Niggeman scored his first career goal at 9:33 a.m. on the fourth and Tiernan added his second a few minutes later, but it wasn’t enough. The Scarlet Knights scored five goals in the verse to withdraw.
The final shots were 42-35 in favor of Rutgers, while the Mountain Hawks had a 31-30 lead on groundballs. Lehigh was 19 of 20 on clearings.
“I’m proud of the way we cleared the ball,” said Cassese. “In the last couple of games we’ve really struggled to sort it out. That was an important focus for us this week in training. I thought we did an excellent job. At the end of the day, Rutgers deserved to win the game Congratulations to you and we wish you the best of luck in the future.
The Mountain Hawks end the season with a 10-2 record, including a perfect 9-0 mark against Patriot League opponents. Lehigh received the number 1 league tournament and the league’s automatic qualification for the NCAA tournament – the program’s first appearance since 2013.
“Proud of our boys,” said Cassese. “I thought they did a great job all year round. Of course we played against the opponents that were on our schedule, but we also played COVID all year and I thought our guys did a really great job to handle everything. You have sacrificed a lot. ” Get us in position to get back on stage.
“I’m just a really proud coach. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with any other group.”
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Gallery: (May 15, 2021) Men’s Lacrosse vs. Rutgers, May 15, 21