No. 8 Mountain Hawks Set to Clash with No. 9 Rutgers in NCAA Tournament First Round

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BETHLEHEM, PA. – The number 8 Lehigh men’s lacrosse team will attempt to regroup from disappointment with the Patriot League championship game canceled on Sunday, leaving everything on the field on Saturday when the Mountain Hawks are in ninth Meet place. Rutgers in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The playing time in UVA’s Klöckner Stadium is set to 2.30 p.m. on ESPNU. This is Lehigh’s third trip to the NCAA tournament in the past nine seasons and the first since 2013.

Lehigh is seeded for a second time in three NCAA appearances, along with a No. 7 in 2012 in which the Mountain Hawks left a 10-9 heartbreaker against eventual national finalist Maryland, six seconds from the end. Lehigh was not seeded in 2013 and played in the fifth North Carolina. These marked the program’s first two NCAA tournament appearances in program history. The Mountain Hawks will be looking for their first NCAA tournament win on Saturday.

The Mountain Hawks enter the tournament with a 10-1 record (good for the nation’s second-best win share, just behind Maryland) and winners of 14 of their last 15 games from last season. Lehigh had the nation’s longest active winning streak (13 games) before losing at Villanova No. 16 on May 1. Last weekend, Lehigh defeated Colgate 13-9 in the Patriot League semi-finals before Sunday’s title game was canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test in Loyola’s Tier 1 testing pool. The non-contest meant the Mountain Hawks got the league’s automatic qualification for the NCAA tournament, preventing Lehigh from playing for his first Patriot League tournament championship since 2013.

In the semi-finals on Friday, the second and first All-Patriot League midfielder John Sidorski ended the offensive with three goals (for his hat-trick in his first career) and three assists for a career high of six points. Junior Mike Sisselberger won 18 of 25 games last Friday (which was statistically one of his “worst” performances of the season) to get 210 face-off wins this season – and only needed five to finish second in program history for the Career to achieve faceoff victories. He also has up to 149 groundballs in 2021 and only needs four to break teammate Conor Gaffney’s program and the Patriot League record. Sisselberger’s 79.5 percent for the season would be an NCAA record if the season ended today (the record currently stands at 79.1 from Albany’s TD Ierlan in 2018).

Lehigh will shift his focus to Rutgers on Saturday, where Junior Cole Kirst competes on the Scarlet Knights against his brothers Colin and Connor. Cole was named the second All-Patriot League winner, while Colin and Connor were both named the first All-Big Ten team. Colin was a four-year-old team member with the Mountain Hawks before joining Rutgers for the fifth time. The Mountain Hawks and Scarlet Knights last played in 2019 (when Colin was on Lehigh) when a starting shot from Tommy Schelling with 2:19 helped Lehigh to a 13:10 win on the road. The year before, Rutgers won a close 8: 7 final in Bethlehem.

Overall, the Scarlet Knights lead the all-time series with 39-10-1. Lehigh and Rutgers met again in 2018, a narrow 8-7 Scarlet Knights win. It was only the third meeting between the two schools since 1971. Before 2018, the teams had not played since April 11, 1990, a 21-6 Rutgers win. Lehigh’s last win was in 1961, an 8-7 final. The first game between the teams took place in 1887, a 12-0 victory for Lehigh. It came on the third season of Lehigh Lacrosse; It was the fifth game in the program and the first shutout.

Rutgers started his season beating Teams No. 6 – Penn State (11-9) and Ohio State (22-12). The Scarlet Knights finished the regular season against their Big Ten only 8-2. The only losses went to the undefeated Maryland. Rutgers dropped his Big Ten semifinals on Johns Hopkins (12-10). Connor Kirst is second on the team with goals (32) and points (47) outside of midfield. Adam Charalambides leads Rutgers in goals (37) and points (53) while Kieran Mullins has scored 25 goals and 20 assists for 45 points. On Saturday there are No. 4 and 5 in the nation with Lehigh at 14.91 goals per game and Rutgers at 14.82.

If the Mountain Hawks win on Saturday, they’ll make it to the NCAA quarterfinals next Saturday to face North Carolina and Monmouth winners in a game at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY

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