The lacrosse team’s season will come to a gripping culmination this Friday.
At 7 p.m., two games separated by 300 miles will commence, ultimately determining whether or not the Mountain Hawks receive a ticket to the Patriot League Tournament.
While Lehigh will be dueling it out at home against the Lafayette College Leopards in the Ulrich Sports Complex, College of the Holy Cross will be traveling to Boston to compete against Boston University.
The Lehigh team is in a situation where it can advance to the Patriot League Tournament only if two events happen. First, it has to win its game against Lafayette, and second, Holy Cross needs to triumph over Boston University.
Sophomore midfielder Ian Strain realizes that half of the night’s outcomes are entirely out of the hands of the Mountain Hawks.
“We don’t control our own destiny in terms of making it into the Patriot League Tournament,” Strain said. “So, our game against Lafayette is the only game that we are still guaranteed to play.”
The fact that this could be the last game of the season is daunting for a team that eagerly wants to compete in its fifth straight Patriot League Tournament. To prepare for such a crucial matchup, coach Kevin Cassese has designed a busy practice schedule for this week.
“It will be a heated battle, and it’s my job to get our team prepared for that battle,” Cassese said.
The team started off its preparation for the Leopards by watching film from its win over Stony Brook University on Sunday. Next, it will move on to clips of Lafayette.
“We will study their schemes and their personnel and then practice the situations we will see in the game on Friday,” Cassese said.
Junior defender Casey Eidenshink said that the team prioritizes self-improvement over anything else.
“Even with all of this preparation, our main focus throughout the week of practices is on ourselves,” Eidenshink said. “We are always trying to become better and more intelligent lacrosse players.”
This strategy has proven successful, especially in the team’s recent games. After a six-game losing streak in March, the Mountain Hawks effectively targeted their points of weakness and worked hard to improve the team’s dynamic. Now, the team is 4-1 in its last five games, fueling the team with some momentum going into the rivalry game.
Eidenshink has emerged as one of the team’s top defenders. During the team’s game against Stony Brook, he held the nation’s leading goal scorer, Brody Eastwood, to just two shots and one goal despite Eastwood entering the game with 50 goals over his first 12 games.
Offensively, senior attackman Dan Taylor leads the team with 70 points this season (36 goals and 34 assists). He is currently first in the Patriot League and fourth in the country in total points. On Monday, Taylor was awarded Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week after garnering 13 points over the span of two games. Throughout his career at Lehigh, Taylor has received this impressive award a total of seven times.
The younger players on the team hope to show their appreciation for Taylor and the rest of the graduating seniors in the most fitting manner they know how: by winning their game against Lafayette. While they know a place in the Patriot League Tournament is not a certainty, they are nonetheless determined to do everything in their power to advance.
“I want to send the seniors out with a win,” Strain said. “We all want to send them out with a win. They have done so much for the program and they deserve it more than anyone.”
Cassese suspects that everyone, underclassmen and seniors alike, are on the same page when it comes to winning.
“There is a chance that this is the last game that this collection of players will ever play alongside one another,” Cassese said. “I expect the team to play with the passion and emotion that comes along with that.”