Lehigh men’s lacrosse defeated Fairfield 20-10 in their 2023 season opener on Feb. 11 at Banko Field.
Heading into the game, Lehigh had not lost a season opener at home since 2015. Last season, Lehigh lost 13-12 in overtime in the Patriot League semifinals.
Only a minute into the first quarter, senior Christian Mule opened the scoring for the Mountain Hawks. Mule was Lehigh’s leading scorer in 2022.
Fairfield answered with two goals of their own to take their first lead of the game 2-1 early in the first quarter.
The first quarter alone saw nine combined goals and five lead changes.
The Mountain Hawks led by one by the end of the first frame, but three straight goals by senior Justin Tiernan stretched the Lehigh lead to 8-4.
Two of Tiernan’s five goals of the day were assisted by Mule. The two seniors grew up knowing each other on Long Island before coming to Lehigh.
“We’ve been best friends since preschool,” Mule said. “We’ve been building this connection for many many years.”
Tiernan and Mule both started the game as attackmen. Junior Scott Cole, starting on attack alongside the two, scored four goals and had three assists.
Coach Kevin Cassese said their offensive performance was “exceptional.”
By the end of the game, Mule had four goals and six assists to lead all Lehigh scorers in points. Mule said he credits his teammates for having the game he did.
“It came easy for us today,” Mule said. “My teammates made me look good.”
The upperclassmen attack trio put the Mountain Hawks up 11-7 going into the half.
Fifth-year faceoff specialist Mike Sisselberger won 12 of the 19 face-off opportunities and finished with a 63 face-off percentage.
“It’s hard to be unsuccessful when I have such a great supporting cast around me,” Sisselberger said. “I don’t like to see it as a personal thing. I just know there’s a lot that my team and I can accomplish together.”
Lehigh led for the entire second half, limiting Fairfield to only three second-half goals.
Lehigh put up a score five times in both the third and fourth quarters, finishing with 20 goals to make the final score 20-10.
Lehigh’s defense had to adapt heading into the season due starters Teddy Leggett and Anthony Tangredi graduating. Despite starting three underclassmen at defense, Lehigh was able to contain Fairfield to 10 goals, just above the 9.19 goals against that they averaged last year.
First-year Richard Checo started the game on defense, playing his first minutes of college lacrosse.
“We have to be stronger as a unit,” Checo said. “Our goalie (junior Nick) Pecora has been saying, ‘there are no great defenders, just great defenses.’”
Pecora recorded 12 saves in net.
Fairfield took advantage of Lehigh going a man down due to penalties, as they scored four of their goals while Lehigh was in the penalty box. Cassese said the way referees were calling penalties was different from what they are used to, and the team will have to adapt for future games.
“We have to have that next man-up mentality, and we did today,” Mule said. “Hopefully, we can keep that going forward.”
The Mountain Hawks continue their season against Hobart at home on Feb. 18.