Junior faceoff specialist Mike Sisselberger runs to the goal after a faceoff. Sisselberger is leading the country in faceoff percentage, going 77 percent from the stripe. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Lehigh men’s lacrosse wins faceoff versus No. 7 Army to remain undefeated

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No. 10 Lehigh men’s lacrosse squeaked past No. 7 Army 13-12 at Ulrich Sports Complex on Saturday afternoon, adding another win to their undefeated resume.

The Mountain Hawks are 2-0 against other teams ranked in the top 10 – poised for some national attention ahead of their contest next weekend against No. 14 Navy.

At the stripe, junior Mike Sisselberger was automatic, winning 23 out of 27 of his faceoffs.

“He’s a beast,” said head coach Kevin Cassese.

What makes Siss so good is his ability to secure the ground ball, even if he loses the clamp. He regularly leads the team in ground balls, providing the Mountain Hawks with important extra possessions.

All afternoon, Army’s Brendan Nichtern proved difficult to stop: After opening up the scoring, Nichtern scored his second just 10 minutes into the game, but Lehigh’s John Sidorski and Cole Kirst stepped up to balance the scoreboard, and the first quarter closed 2-2. Kirst led the Mountain Hawks with four goals, while Nichtern led both teams with five goals and two assists.

A high-powered second quarter, including a fancy goal from Lehigh’s Christian Mulé and two more from Kirst, helped the Mountain Hawks head into the halftime break with their beaks in front 6-5. A poor penalty at the end of the first half resulted in a man-up opportunity for the Black Knights early in the third quarter.

Lehigh answered with three quick goals, but just when the Mountain Hawks looked like they might pull away, Nichtern netted another one.

After trading a few more goals, the third quarter closed 11-8, and the Mountain Hawks began the fourth quarter with a three-goal advantage.

A pretty dodge-and-dink from Army’s Nickolas Edger followed by an unfortunate knee injury to Lehigh midfielder Jack Spence appeared to take all the air out of the stadium. A turnover and two more Army goals knotted up the game at 11 with under nine minutes to go.

Fortunately, strong team defense and a couple of ground balls secured by Teddy Leggett created another opportunity for Mulé to put the hawks in front. Lehigh’s Scott Cole is called for a questionable one-minute non-releasable penalty, giving life to a deflated black knights team with just a few minutes left in the game. Army scored to tie the game at 12.

Following a crucial time out – man-down with possession at the end of the fourth quarter – Cole Kirst delivered a rocket, his fourth, to push the Mountain Hawks ahead. When duty called, two key saves from goalie James Spence sent the Black Knights packing and closed the book on the toughest challenge the brown & white have had to face this season.

“I still don’t believe Lehigh has  played its best lacrosse this year,” Cassese said. “I think we can be cleaner. I think we can improve in a lot of areas.”

Absent from the scoresheet was Lehigh star, Tommy Schelling. Although he was present, he was effectively taken out of the game by Army’s All-American defenseman Marcus Hudgins.

“Hudgins did a great job on him,” Cassese said. “ I don’t think we necessarily did a great job helping Tommy, so the other guys had to step up and be able to win their matchups.”

Lehigh will look to keep it rolling when they take on Navy on April 10 at 4:00 p.m.

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