Junior midfielder Andrew Eichelberger is defended by Hofstra’s sophomore defenseman Keegan Santos on Saturday Feb. 9, 2019, at Ulrich Sports Complex. The Mountain Hawks face No. 2 Loyola on Saturday, April 6, 2019, in Baltimore. (Isabel Standbridge/B&W Staff)

Big test for men’s lacrosse as it faces No. 2 Loyola

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After dropping three of its first four games, the Lehigh men’s lacrosse team appeared in jeopardy. Since then, the team has won six games in a row and will have its biggest test Saturday against No. 2 Loyola.

After losing players to injury, such as seniors Andrew Pettit for the season and Lucas Spence for a few games due to injury, it was critical for younger members to step up, even if it meant having to develop at an accelerated rate.

A “next man up” attitude was adopted throughout the team. Lehigh excelled and is now ranked as a top 15 team nationally.

Senior midfielder Alexander Tumminello has had to carry an injury-depleted team. A transfer from Maryland two years ago, Tumminello came off the bench last season before emerging as the team’s current leading scorer.

“I had to bust my tail off in the offseason to kind of up my skills because we were losing some key players, and then obviously it was kind of a next man up mentality,” Tumminello said.

Tumminello said despite limited playing time, his experiences at Maryland have helped bolster his opportunity at Lehigh with an added perspective.

“Maryland is more of a robotic and monotonous offense, and Lehigh is more freelance, and I was able to translate that from the robotic offense to more of a freelance offense with my playing style,” Tumminello said. “Coach (Kevin) Cassese really knows the strengths and weaknesses of his players, and he kind of injected me where he thought I fit best, and its been going well.”

A theme consistent across the Lehigh lacrosse program is to take one game at a time and make adjustments every week.

Tumminello said the team embraces the mentality that anyone can beat anyone in college lacrosse, and no opponent can be overlooked or defeat will likely ensue.

“We pride ourselves on focusing on what’s in front of us, and that’s just out of necessity,” Tumminello said. “Those who overlook their opponents aren’t very disciplined and they drop games. That’s something that we can’t have happen and coach Cassese won’t allow to happen.”

Senior attacker Tristan Rai agrees.

“We need to be focused on ourselves in the moment,” Rai said. “We’ve had some issues where we’ve been a little too focused on the other team and just need to focus on us.”

Associate head coach Will Scudder said the team has done a fantastic job of recognizing its past failures when it comes to game preparation.

“I think this year’s team recognizes that last year we put such a point of emphasis on some of the big games on our schedule that this year we’ve kind of said ‘hey look, each opponent we have is just as important as the next one,’” Scudder said.

Rai specifically stressed that this year’s roster has done a fantastic job of avoiding a complacent attitude from game to game.

“We didn’t lose faith for a second, we could’ve won every one of those games,” Rai said. “It was actually beneficial to see what we need to do to win. From senior to freshman we learned how to win this year.”

As the team heads into Saturday’s game, it has to give its all against one of the nation’s best. Rai said that this game is crucial because it is also a Patriot League game.

“Our mentality through this whole streak is that the biggest game is the next one, and this week it just happens to be Loyola,” Scudder said.

Tumminello said confidence is key for this game.

“If you’re not confident, your fundamentals are weak and you’re not really focused,” Tumminello said. “You need to have confidence in yourself in order to pass that off to your teammates, it kind of spreads, and we’re just trying to ride that wave and string games together.”

This win would propel the Mountain Hawks into one of the top spots in the league, giving them a chance to win a league title and compete for the National Championship.

“Everyone can beat everyone,” Tumminello said.

Lehigh faces the Loyola Greyhounds on Saturday at 11 a.m. in Baltimore.

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