Lehigh Mountain Hawks sophomore midfielder Austin Clibanoff scoops a ground ball during practice on, Tuesday, Feb. 13 at Banko Field. The team will take on the No. 9 seed University North Carolina on Feb. 17 in North Carolina. (May Naish/B&W Staff)

Lehigh men’s lacrosse heads into UNC game with 2-0 record

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The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team is gearing up to travel to Chapel Hill on Saturday, Feb. 17 to compete against the University of North Carolina, a top-15 team that won its fifth national title in 2016.

The Mountain Hawks are 2-0 this season, recording a 13-8 home win against the New Jersey Institute of Technology in their Feb. 3 season opener and another 13-8 win at Mercer University last Saturday, Feb. 10. The team is eager to capitalize on a potential win against UNC (2-0) to set the tone for the rest of the season.

“We are hoping to have the best practice and training week of the season so we can be prepared to play our best game of the season,” coach Kevin Cassese said. “Preparing for and playing a team like this will make us a better team.”

Junior defender Craig Chick said the team pushed itself in the off season to prepare for its challenging schedule during the regular season. He was one of three players who was named preseason all-league.

Returning from a loss to Boston University in the first round of the 2017 Patriot League Tournament, Chick said his mind is set on winning the championship game and moving on to the NCAA Tournament.

“Everyone still kind of has a bad taste from that,” he said. “This season is going to be different.”

Junior defender Eddie Bouhall, another preseason all-league selection, said the team is prepared for its upcoming game against UNC.

Bouhall said the respect Lehigh has for UNC’s prestigious program will motivate the Mountain Hawks to work even harder before Saturday’s game comes around.

“As a whole, we need to be extremely focused all week,” Bouhall said. “Digging deep into film and extra work after practice will also help us get an advantage over the Tar Heels. If we stick to the game plan, then we won’t have anything to worry about.”

With nine out of the team’s 10 starters from last season returning this year, the Mountain Hawks have an advantage. The players have experience enduring the demanding practices, navigating the tough losses and celebrating the triumphant victories as a cohesive unit.

The experienced group of attackmen — sophomore Austin Pierce, juniors Andrew Pettit and Mickey Fitzpatrick, and senior John Mehok — will be integral in driving the offensive success on the field. So far this season, the unit has scored 17 of the team’s 26 goals.

The defense has proven to be equally critical in contributing to the team’s success, seizing more ground balls and creating more turnovers than either of Lehigh’s first two opponents.

Bouhall attributes the team’s strength to its growth during the offseason.

“We have had a very successful offseason this year, and I feel we have really progressed as a team and more importantly as a family,” Bouhall said. “We are extremely excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to perform on Saturday. We mean business this year.”

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