It was the battle of defenses Saturday afternoon at Nickerson Field between the Boston University men’s lacrosse team and No. 17 Lehigh University. However, it was Lehigh (8-3, 5-1 Patriot League) that ultimately took the 7-6 win and avenged its loss in the Patriot League quarterfinals last season.
After the scoreline stayed at 6-6 for almost 13 minutes in the fourth quarter, the Mountain Hawks eventually broke through the Terriers’ (5-6, 1-4 Patriot League) defense as junior attack and midfielder Mickey Fitzpatrick found the back of the net with 39 seconds remaining in regulation.
Despite his team falling in its fourth conference matchup of the season, BU head coach Ryan Polley said he was proud of the level of competition the team brought.
“I thought it was a great college game. I thought both teams played really hard,” Polley said. “I thought their defense was excellent and I thought that, like a lot of our games this year, it kind of comes down to one play in the fourth quarter and they were able to make the play.”
Terrier sophomore goalkeeper Joe McSorley finished the day with 10 saves while the defense in front of him had Lehigh matching its lowest scoring output all year.
A key addition to the defensive lineup was sophomore defender and long-stick midfielder Chase Levesque, who had been out for eight games due to injury.
Levesque matched his a career high with six ground balls and had a career high four caused turnovers.
“When we’re playing so many inexperienced guys, it’s a little bit tough so it’s nice to have a lot of experience there and playmakers,” Polley said of the team’s defense. “Chase is just so great off the ground so his ability to get the ground ball and clear it certainly helps us as well.”
Junior defender Quintin Germain, who hasn’t seen the field since BU’s contest against the United States Air Force Academy on March 3, also provided extra defense.
The Terriers limited the Mountain Hawks’ trio of top scorers — junior attack and midfielders Lucas Spence and Andrew Pettit and junior attack Tristan Rai — to one goal each.
“I thought we did a good job [defensively],” Polley said. “We worked on that all week, to make sure that we didn’t leave those guys with their hands free. I thought we did a good job of not giving up any easy goals…”
Over the entire contest, Lehigh sophomore midfielder Andrew Eichelberger was the only scorer to tally more than one goal.
The defenses held strong in the beginning of the game as it took 12 minutes and 52 seconds for either team to find the back of the net.
Junior midfielder Alexander Tumminello broke the deadlock for the Mountain Hawks and found the corner of the net at 2:08.
BU opened the second quarter with two goals from midfielders senior Hayden Ruiz and junior Thomas Schmidt — his first goal of the season — that were within 1:10 of each other.
Lehigh responded with three straight goals to take a 4-2 lead into halftime.
The Terriers returned with much-needed momentum and went on a four-goal run in the third quarter to regain the lead for the first time since the first quarter.
In this span, attacks senior Jack Wilson, junior James Burr and freshman Chris Gray as well as sophomore midfielder John MacLean got past freshman goalkeeper James Spence, who finished with 13 saves.
“I think our offense just started to play with a little bit more confidence,” Polley said. “Lehigh’s very well-coached and they don’t make many mistakes and we kind of have to play with a little bit more urgency and execution.”
BU almost shut out Lehigh during the frame, but Spence got the Mountain Hawks within one with 1:52 left in the third.
The final frame ensued similarly to first, with the defenses standing tall and keeping scoring low.
Eichelberger knotted the game 6-6 at 13:33 after taking advantage of a failed Terrier clear.
The Terriers maintained possession in the middle of the frame, but were unable to convert any of their eight shots over the quarter.
As time wound down, Lehigh maintained possession off a successful clear attempt.
Spence fired a shot at McSorley, who saved the shot, but Fitzpatrick buried the rebound for his 10th goal of the season to put the Mountain Hawks up by one with 39 seconds remaining in the contest.
“… I was just excited that we were able to have that great [third] quarter,” Polley. “I was excited that we were able to get those four goals, but our end of the game execution wasn’t great.”