|Mountain Hawks release 2013 schedule|
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BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Smith Family Head Lacrosse Coach Kevin Cassese announced the Mountain Hawks’ 2013 schedule on Thursday, which features four teams who finished in the top 15 of last season’s final Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll. Lehigh will play 14 regular season games, seven at home, five on the road and two at neutral sites, as the Mountain Hawks will face Denver, UMass and Colgate who all advanced to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
“I am excited about the overall strength and general makeup of the spring schedule and look forward to playing some very familiar opponents and three new teams during the 2013 season,” said Cassese.
Highlighting the new teams on the schedule are UMass, Denver and Air Force, as the Minutemen were as high as #1 in the national polls last season while the Pioneers fell just shy of their second straight Final Four appearance.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to take part in the Pioneer Face-Off Classic when we’ll travel out to Colorado to play games vs. the University of Denver and the Air Force Academy in consecutive days,” said Cassese. “We are also excited to add the University of Massachusetts to our schedule as a home game in 2013.”
UMass will visit the Ulrich Sports Complex on Tuesday, Mar. 19; the Minutemen finished last season 10th in the final national poll and return Tewaaraton Award Finalist Will Manny. UMass posted a 15-1 record out of the CAA. The other three top-15 finishers were Denver (sixth), Colgate (eighth) and Penn State (15th).
Lehigh will kick off its season by hosting former assistant coach Taylor Wray and his Saint Joseph’s Hawks on Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. The Mountain Hawks opened the 2012 season with an 11-4 win over Saint Joe’s and hold an 11-2 record in the all-time series. Saint Joseph’s did close out last season with a bang, winning its final three games highlighted by a 6-3 win over CAA Tournament participant Towson.
The following Saturday, Lehigh will head to Villanova to face the always-challenging Wildcats, who made the NCAA Tournament in 2011 and barely missed the cut last season. The Mountain Hawks will look to avenge two straight defeat to Villanova; they lost a slim 9-8 final the last time they were at Villanova Stadium.
The Mountain Hawks will play their second straight road game when they travel to Denver to take part in the Pioneer Face-Off Classic. Lehigh will play host Denver on Saturday, Feb. 23 before facing another ECAC foe (Air Force) the following day. The Pioneers made their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance under head coach Bill Tierney last year, narrowly missing their second straight Final Four appearance, falling 10-9 in the Quarterfinals to eventual National Champion Loyola.
Lehigh returns home to host VMI on Saturday, Mar. 2 before welcoming Penn just three days later. The Quakers are coming off a tough 2012 season, but advanced to the NCAA Tournament just two years ago. The Mountain Hawks defeated the Quakers, 10-4, last year, in the first meeting between the two sides since 2007.
The Mountain Hawks will then play Penn State at a neutral site (to be announced) on Saturday, Mar. 9. The Nittany Lions narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament last season, finishing 9-6 which featured a big win over Denver. Penn State was 15th in the final Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll.
Lehigh opens league play on Mar. 16 at Army in a rematch of last year’s Patriot League Semifinal before returning home for its final nonleague matchup vs. UMass on Tuesday, Mar. 19.
Last season’s Colonial Athletic Association Champion, UMass ranked as high as #1 in the country in 2012, going undefeated all the way until the NCAA Tournament. Still, the Minutemen finished with a 15-1 record and bring a storied history to the Ulrich Sports Complex.
Lehigh will continue with Patriot League foes from that point forward, on five straight Saturdays, beginning with a trip to Worcester to face Holy Cross on Saturday, Mar. 23. The Mountain Hawks look to improve to 23-0 all-time against the Crusaders.
Lehigh returns home for three of its final four games, hosting Navy on Mar. 30, Colgate on Apr. 6 and archrival Lafayette on Apr. 20 with a trip to Bucknell sprinkled in between. The game vs. Colgate is set for 1 p.m. in Goodman Stadium. The Raiders, who feature Tewaaraton Award Winner Peter Baum, defeated UMass in the NCAA Tournament last season.
For three straight weeks, Lehigh will face a team which was nationally-ranked at some point during the 2012 season (Navy, Colgate and Bucknell). The Apr. 6 game vs. the Raiders is a rematch of last season’s thrilling Patriot League Championship Game, which the Mountain Hawks won, 16-14. Then on Apr. 13, Lehigh and Bucknell will square off in a rematch of the Mountain Hawks’ thrilling 9-8 home win over the Bison which featured a Dante Fantoni goal in the final seconds.
“The 2012 season was a banner year for the Patriot League across the board and we expect more of the same in 2013,” said Cassese. “This is a first-class league that we are delighted to be a part of and we certainly value the top notch competition and intense rivalries that have developed over the years.”
The Patriot League Tournament is set for the following weekend as the Semifinals will take place on Friday, Apr. 26 and the Championship Game on Sunday, Apr. 28. The entire tournament will be hosted by the regular season champion.
Lehigh hopes to advance to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season. The First Round will be played May 11-12 on campus sites while Quarterfinals are set for May 18-19 in either College Park, Md. or Indianapolis, Ind. Championship weekend is May 25-27 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia with the Semifinals on Saturday, May 25 and National Championship Game on Monday, May 27.