The Lehigh men's lacrosse team celebrates a win over Bucknell on March 23, 2024, at Frank Banko Field. The Mountain Hawks defeated the Bison 9-8. (Courtesy Lehigh Sports)

Men’s lacrosse starts 2-1 in conference play


The Lehigh men’s lacrosse team is currently 2-1 in Patriot League play after defeating Bucknell University, 9-8, at home on Saturday, March 23. The Mountain Hawks sit at fourth in the conference and are looking to secure a spot in the Patriot League Tournament amidst a highly competitive group of teams. 

After defeating Navy, 12-10, to open league play, the Mountain Hawks fell to the previously No. 1 Army, 18-12. Despite already facing the nationally-ranked Black Knights, the Mountain Hawks still have matchups on the horizon against undefeated Colgate University and Boston University, who knocked off Army, 14-9, on Friday, March 22. 

Senior attacker Quinn Armstrong said the team isn’t taking anyone lightly in conference play and is focusing on taking the remainder of the season one game at a time.

He said in the Patriot League, everyone is their biggest opponent.

Armstrong also noted the freedom the team has in tweaking its strategy during the Patriot League season, which makes those games so valuable. 

“With conference play, you are able to try new things schematically and ultimately not dwell as hard on wins and losses because they do not mean as much in the grand scheme of things,” Armstrong said. “In the Patriot League, winning the conference is the only way into the NCAA tournament and everyone on the team knows that. So in terms of making changes, we haven’t deviated too far from what our process is at its core but instead, we look to double down on everything we have been preaching.” 

Though Lehigh is ranked No. 28 in the NCAA RPI (rating percentage index) poll, they have yet to find their groove, unable to string together two consecutive wins so far this season. 

The team sustained losses early in the season against ranked non-conference opponents Cornell and Rutgers, but junior midfielder Kellen Mathias said they have turned those losses into lessons. 

“From the beginning coach (Will) Scudder has told us we are working towards achieving our peak as a team in May. We aren’t going to be the best versions of ourselves in February,” Mathias said. “Although it can be frustrating, I feel that these losses are important for us to learn our mistakes and be able to grow from them.”

Though Scudder is in his first season as head coach of the Mountain Hawks, it is not his first in the program. He spent five years as an associate head coach and seven years as the defensive coordinator for the Mountain Hawks before ascending to the top job after former coach Kevin Cassese departed after 16 years to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Virginia.

“Coach Scudder is like no other coach I have ever been coached by,” Mathias said. “He truly has a special relationship with every single player, and I think most head coaches throughout the NCAA cannot say the same. He has been a big brother figure in my life and a bunch of the other guys on the team as well. He coaches with a tough love and attitude that provides an example for how we should treat one another.” 

Like Scudder, several of his players are stepping into bigger roles with the departure of four of the team’s top five point-scorers from last season. 

Sophomore attackers Andrew Kelly, Grant Rodny and EJ Vasile all sit in the top five of Lehigh’s point-scorers with 18, 12 and nine respectively. Sophomore defensemen Richard Checo and Luke McAuliffe lead the Mountain Hawks in caused turnovers with 15 and 8, respectively. 

Collectively, the Mountain Hawks have plenty of talented players to help them succeed in conference play and to lead them to a championship victory. The team also retained key upperclassmen from the previous year, who have provided skilled veteran leadership and experience to the team.

“We have some assets on both sides of the ball in Scott Cole, who is reigning Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year; Nick Pecora in cage, who should have a standout season in net to help the group; and Richard Checo who is preseason first (team) All-Patriot League,” Armstrong said. 

This year, the team shares one common goal: the Patriot League Championship. Senior captain Scott Cole said the program’s team-first nature provides a framework for success for the rest of the season.

“The ultimate goal is to win the Patriot League Championship and make it to championship weekend,” Cole said. “Who we beat along the way and how we do it doesn’t really matter to me. The good thing is we have a group that does anything to win and is selfless enough to sacrifice personal success for team success, and I know that will serve us well in the long run.”

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