The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team heads into the second half of its season 3-0 in the Patriot League but 5-3 overall, after losing to Hobart, Cornell and Georgetown in non-league games.
On March 26, Lehigh battled Georgetown, the No. 3 team in the nation, but ultimately lost 14-11, breaking its recent winning streak for the month of March.
After a very successful 2021 season, the team had higher expectations for 2022.
Junior Christian Mulé said he felt the weight of last year’s performance heading into this spring.
“There was a lot of pressure on this team to follow in the footsteps of what happened last year,” Mulé said. “I hope that we can exceed how we did, but we also have to get in our heads that it’s a new season and we need to continue to grow and take it one game at a time.”
The team was ranked 22nd in the NCAA’s RPI rankings and 19th by Inside Lacrosse’s preseason media poll.
The Mountain Hawks had a rocky start to this season with juniors John Sidorski and Justin Tiernan, and senior Cole Kirst on injured reserve. Sidorski and Tiernan are both out for the rest of the season, but Kirst’s absence came as a surprise to the team.
Sophomore Quinn Armstrong said the team has responded to this challenge by coming together. He said sophomores Scott Cole, Aidan Decker, freshman Dakota Eierman and junior Andrew Mapston have stepped in to fill the roles this season.
Armstrong said injuries have set the team back a few strides, especially with Kirst on the sidelines.
“I think getting over that hump of realizing that we’re a completely new team was tough, and I think we were trying to ride off last year’s coattails,” Armstrong said. “We finally realized that our new identity is different, and it’s taken some time to get where we are now.”
After losing two games early on in the season, Mulé said head coach Kevin Cassese’s words of encouragement to the team were what shifted his mindset.
Cassese emphasized that this was a totally different team that needed to create its own identity and begin to grow by itself, according to Mulé.
Though the season had a slow start with losses against Hobart and Cornell, Armstrong said the loss against Hobart served as a learning experience for the team.
“I think that loss is a game that we’d love to take back, but it definitely kind of humbled us a little bit and made us rethink what we’re doing here,” Armstrong said.
Senior Matt Marker said Hobart is a solid opponent, and agreed with Armstrong that the team has come a long way since the loss.
After the Cornell game, Patriot League play began, and the team has had a new-found focus, defeating both service academies and Holy Cross.
Mulé said beating another ranked team is always a great feeling, especially a service academy. Army was ranked ninth in the country when Lehigh faced off with them.
Armstrong said the team thrives as the underdogs.
“I think that our struggle at the beginning of the season was that we thought we were a little better than we were,” Armstrong said. “Then we realized we’re best when we aren’t the favorites.”
The Mountain Hawks have five games left before the Patriot League tournament.
Marker said he’s looking forward to the rest of the schedule because there are no weak links in the league.
“We are hoping to improve week by week and play our best lacrosse at the end of the season,” Marker said. “We understand that we have had some highs and lows, but we are hoping that our best lacrosse is ahead of us.”
Undefeated in the Patriot League, the Mountain Hawks will travel to Lafayette on April 2 to play the 2-7 (0-4) Leopards in Easton.