Editor’s note: This article was updated on Feb. 12 to amend a quote attributed to coach Kevin Cassese that contained a comment he did not make about Duke University.
While some people might spend this Sunday celebrating Valentine’s Day, the Lehigh men’s lacrosse team will be in Durham, North Carolina, looking to beat Duke University in what may be the team’s toughest game of the season.
While No. 3 Duke will play its first game against High Point University Friday evening, Lehigh already has a win under its belt, having defeated the New Jersey Institute of Technology this past Saturday. Not only did Lehigh win, but the team dominated NJIT at 21-4, scoring six goals nine minutes into the game and leading 16-2 by the half. Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese said that it was a strong way to kick off the season.
“It’s good to be 1-0,” he said. “This is something we did not accomplish a year ago, so it’s nice to get off to a good start in 2016. We scored a lot of goals, so our offense should be confident. But we can’t afford to be cocky because the team we are playing this weekend is one of the best in the country.”
Duke held a 12-6 record last spring and are typically strong contenders for the NCAA Championship. Cassese knows this all too well, having played for the Blue Devils in his undergraduate years.
“The significance is that we get to play one of the most decorated lacrosse programs in the past 10 years,” he said. “As far as Duke being my alma mater, the most impact that will have is that I will know all the good restaurants to go to on our trip to Durham.”
Sophomore goalie Adam Sawicki said team mentality plays an important part in whether the Hawks will win or lose.
“Duke is a national contender almost every year, and they have a certain stigma around them,” Sawicki said. “I think if we can keep our confidence and do what we do best we’ll have a great chance at shocking the world, as we like to call it. Beating Duke would work wonders for our mentality, and knowing we could defeat a powerhouse like them could really spark a fire under us to make a run.”
Aside from having the right mentality, Lehigh will need a strong performance on the defensive side, which will be represented by seniors Tripp Telesco and Casey Eidenshink. Freshman attackman Tristan Rai, who tallied a career-high five goals against NJIT, senior midfielder Alex Eaton and senior attackman Reid Weber will all likely be key offensive contributors.
Junior midfielder Cody Triolo said that to get the win, a whole team effort is essential.
“Playing a team as skilled as Duke, we will all need to be on the same page in terms of energy and communication,” Triolo said. “Everyone must come to play, not just any one individual.”
As for the rest of the season, junior attackman Anthony Ramaizel said they try to take it day by day.
“Of course we want to win the Patriot League and eventually make it to the NCAA Championship,” he said. “But we are adamant in focusing on the present. Take each day as it comes, one game after the next, and put all of our energy and focus in that moment.”
Lehigh will face off against Duke at 1 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN3.