Friday, January 23, 2009

Lehigh Weekend: First Home Wrestling Action In Two Months

Hard to believe, but the last time Lehigh wrestled at home, the Mountain Hawks were 4-0 with folks intrigued with the potential of this team - but nothing more. Granted, there were indicators that something special was brewing, with an upset win against No. 9 ranked Michigan - but few thought that the Mountain Hawks would be comming back to Leeman-Turner Arena at Grace Hall with a 15-1 record and a No. 8 national ranking.

Lehigh will make up for the layoff with three duals this weekend, starting with the one on Friday versus Drexel at 7:00 p.m., and back-to-back duals against Harvard and Brown at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Satruday. Lehigh will be favored in all three duals, and has some pretty impressive win percentages against these three schools: try 40-5 combined. (Lehigh is even a perfect 14-0 versus Drexel.)

The biggest test will certainly be for freshman 197 lb wrestler Joe Kennedy, who will be lining up against one nationally-ranked wrestler (Drexel's Jon Oplinger) and one EIWA-ranked wrestler (Brown's Branden Stearns). There should also be a lot of action at 184, where junior David Craig is ranked No. 15 in the nation by Intermat magazine and should face some tough tests in Harvard's Louis Caputo (No. 7 nationally) and Matt Gevelinger (ranked by EIWA).

Grace Hall, nestled right in the middle of campus, makes for a daunting, intimate setting for opposing wrestlers. Should be a good way to spend an early Friday night/Saturday afternoon. All the action is available on Lehighsports.com - and the dual against Drexel will additionally be available on tape delay, too, at 9:30 p.m. Friday.

***

It's also "mini"-Rivalry weekend in the Valley, as both the men's and women's basketball teams face off against Lafayette this weekend.

At the Kirby Sports Center in Easton, Lehigh will have to rebound from their latest disappointing loss - an ugly 58-45 drubbing by 5-12 Colgate on Wednesday in their game against Lafayette. The Mountain Hawks looked a lot more like the team on a three-game losing streak than the team that walloped Army last weekend: they went 29.6% shooting against the Raiders, with only junior F Zahir Carrington and junior G Dave Buchburger scoring in double-digits. A whopping 10 turnovers from Carrington and senior F Phil Anderson added mightily to the total - while the bench only produced six points, all from sophomore G Prentice Small.

The silver lining is that 11-6 Lehigh (Real time RPI: 233) is facing a 6-11 Lafayette team (Real Time RPI: 281) also got drubbed 71-61 by Bucknell on Wednesday. But these games are always wars - they never want to lose to each other - so you can probably throw the records and RPIs out the window when they play each other. Lafayette is guard-dominated, with junior G Jeff Kari (11.5 ppg) and senior G Andrew Brown (15.1 ppg) the big scoring threats. The Leopards average 32 rebounds per game - giving Lehigh fans hope that a solid rebounding afternoon might prove to be the difference.

The 14-5 Lady Hawks (Real Time RPI: 112) cap the weekend by hosting "that school in Easton" (7-10, Real Time RPI: 219) at Stabler Arena at 7:00 p.m. Satruday. On Wednesday, Lehigh struggled early - falling behind at halftime 28-22 but ultimately cruised to a 61-43 victory behind the play of - guess who - sophomore G Erica Prosser, whose 25 points and 5 steals are simply adding to her incredible performances this year. Senior F Haly Crites added 7 rebounds and 3 blocks, and senior G Tricia Smith also added 9 rebounds.

But like the men, you can throw out the records when it's a "Rivalry". Sophomore F LaKeisha Wright leads the Leopards with 11.4 points per game, while senior G Cristin Zavocki not far behind at 10.6 ppg. The Lady Hawks have to keep the rebounding edge on the Leopards - and not have a shooting lapse of the sort they had in the first half against Colgate.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More Lehigh Recruiting News, Including Two Verbals

We're just about a month away from hearing about Lehigh's incoming football class of 2013, and the rumor mill is still swirling about possible commits. Here's the rumor mill - and two verified verbal commits.

(Note: the opinions offered are only my own, based on what I've read and seen.)

OL/DL Collin Bremer (Abington Heights HS, PA)
The skinny: More local talent is finding its way to Bethlehem, as this all-star 6'5 255 lb lineman from the Lackawanna Football Conference reported has picked Lehigh over Bucknell, Colgate, Sacred Heart and Central Connecticut State. Abington Heights was known for having a talented, deep "O" line this year, so I'd think he looks like a possibility first on the "O" line. You have to love reading quotes like this: “I went down for my visit and I felt very comfortable there,” Bremer said. “They have a great football program there and the academics are top notch.”

QB Mike Colvin (Morristown HS, NJ)
The skinny: (Pictured) The son of a former Lehigh football player, the kid who grew up watching games at Murray Goodman is reportedly coming to the Mountain Hawks to play for the home team. Just today, Colvin announced he's coming to Lehigh after making official visits to Bethlehem and Georgetown. Reportedly, FBS schools Buffalo, Akron, Syracuse and NC State were all rumored to be sniffing around, but the report says that Colvin "was so impressed with Lehigh during his official visit last weekend that he gave a verbal commitment." Want more love? "When I got to Lehigh, I knew that was where I wanted to go," he said to the Daily Record. "They have a lot of tradition. Football is a big deal there. Academics are big. There is a balance."

Looking at his film, ESPN grades him as a very high 74, praising his tools but calling him "green". The video shows that he stands up in the pocket well and has a terrific arm. At 6'2 and 195 lbs, some good mobility - and time to grow - Colvin seems like a real terrific get.

DE Tom Bianchi (West Essex HS, NJ)
The skinny: Listed as a "solid verbal" coming to Lehigh per Rivals.com. This 6'2, 231 lb defensive end graded out as a 64 from ESPN's recruiting website and listed Army, Boston College, Syracuse, New Hampshire as Penn as possible destinations - so we may have stole him away from Penn if that's the case. (Always good to see Lehigh reportedly taking recruits away from the Ivy League.) Looking at the video from that site, he showed really good push from the 3-4 defense they played, and got a good amount of pressure on the quarterback and disruption of the running game. He's listed as a "solid prospect" - for FBS schools. Looks like a real keeper at the FCS level.

QB Tyler Wilhelm (Seminole Ridge HS, FL)

The skinny: Listed last year as a very early potential prospect for Lehigh, this 6'3, 180 lb QB - who was injured during his crucial junior year - has recently been linked again to Lehigh. Reportedly in competition with South Dakota or Mercyhurst for a full scholarship, he is reported to have a chance to go to Lehigh with what they call a "partial scholarship" (read: a grant-in-aid that has some component that his family would have to pay) after having a very good senior year. Listed as a "dual-threat" QB.

LB/FB/TE Taylor Marsh (Jupiter Christian HS, FL)
The skinny: Listed Lehigh as one of his choices, as well as Colgate, Columbia, Fordham, Jacksonville, Penn, Wofford, Applachian State, The Citadel and others. One of the linchpins of one of the best high school teams in Florida, his defense helped anchor the back-to-back state champions with 78 tackles in 10 games. His video on YouTube shows good vision and good physical play. He looks like he'd be a good fit in Lehigh's 3-4 defense.

DB/WR Mario Conte (Mullen HS, CO)
The skinny: Colorado isn't a place where we get the most recruits, but the 5'11, 180 lb senior from the state championship team has listed Dartmouth, North Dakota, Northern Colorado, and Lehigh as three schools where he's getting "interest". He has a video on Scout.com (subscription required) and notably had 5 interceptions his junior year, but he's also played WR.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Carrington and Hall Silence Critics, Pulverize Army

For the men's basketball team, it was good times again this weekend at Stabler Arena. Faced with the prospect of an 0-3 start, junior G Marquis Hall responded to criticism from the Allentown Morning Call (and, to a lesser extent, on this blog) by exploding for 8 assists, 20 points (with an inpressive 60% shooting percentage) in a 77-57 demolition of Army.

Lehigh never trailed in this game, jumping to a 9-0 lead and never letting the game get to within seven points the rest of the way. That aspect was really encouraging, especially considering the way that the Mountain Hawks had let the games against American and Navy get away from them late. Junior F Zahir Carrington, who got his second Patriot League Player of the Week award, continued his incredible play, nabbing 8 rebounds and scoring 18 points - hitting double digit scoring for the seventh straight game. Sophomore G Rob Keefer also added 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting to help reverse Lehigh's three-game skid.

In the official release and in the wrapup from the Brown & White, Lehigh used the last two Patriot League tournament losses to Army at Stabler as motivation:

Hall spoke about breaking out of his recent shooting slump following the game. “I’ve been dissecting my game with Coach Reed, watching a lot of film, trying to get some shots up and get my rhythm back and tonight I was able to do that.” He continued, “We know Army has beaten us on our home floor a few times, and I don’t want to talk about that right now, but we know we have to defend our home court and it felt great to get that first league win here tonight.”

Carrington said since Army has eliminated Lehigh from the Patriot League tournament at Stabler Arena the past two seasons, it certainly had an effect on the Hawks.

"It definitely motivated us; it gave us an extra boost," Carrington said. "We wanted to take care of business on our home court and beat those guys this time."

Good times - but it may be a good time to remember that one win against a 4-13 Army team does not a championship make.

That said, it was important for the 11-6 Mountain Hawks (Real Time RPI: 233) to get some positive momentum into tonight's game at 5-11 Colgate (Real Time RPI: 273) in cold Hamilton, NY. Before this one is chalked up automatically in the win column, it's worth remembering that this team came very close to knocking off Harvard at Cotterell Court - yes, the same Harvard team that dominated Boston College this year, and more recently gave Lafayette all they could handle at home, too.

Here's hoping that the men's team can keep the good times rolling tonight at 7:00 PM. The broadcast can be heard on lehighsports.com, or on AM 1230 and 1320 in the Lehigh Valley.

******

The Eagles (and, no, I don't mean American U.) weren't the only local team to lose in the final minutes on Sunday. The women's basketball team, playing at Christl arena in West Point, NY, mostly withstood a furious Army rally - but ultimately fell 54-52 on a last-second layup with 2.3 seconds remaining. While the final play will be on the Lady Hawks' minds this week, it might be another stat - 21 turnovers - that head coach Sue Troyan might be emphasizing to her squad.

Sophomore G Erica Prosser had her "usual" 22 point, 7 assist, 6 rebound effort - I think any women's basketball team in America would be ecstatic with production like that - to go with junior G Alex Ross' 10 points and senior G Tricia Smith's six rebounds. While the loss is frustrating, losing to a tough Army team on the road on a last-second layup is nothing to feel sorry about. I have a feeling that Army is going to be really tough the rest of the way, too.

The team has been playing better than any team in recent memory, and according to the Brown & White, the Lady Hawks are well aware of that:

"I've been really happy with our record," Sullivan said. "It's the best since I've been here and we have the opportunity to improve a lot. We haven't peaked yet. It's exciting.

"We have a chance to be really good. We are capable to position ourselves in a high seed in the league tournament and we're put in a good position to win the championships."

That's not the only press the Lady Hawks have been receiving - the Morning Call also ran an article on the personal story of junior F Courtney Molinaro, a Penn State transfer who recently lost her mother:

Courtney Molinaro was trying to catch some extra Zs. She wanted to be ready for the team's double sessions the following day, Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008.

When her dad called her around 10:30 the night before, Molinaro figured he just wanted to chat, and decided to let the call go to her voice mail.

''He called again immediately,'' the Lehigh University junior recalled. ''I knew something was wrong.''

Tonight, 12-5 Lehigh (Real Time RPI: 107) will host 4-12 Colgate (Real Time RPI: 338) at Stabler Arena in a classic "tweener game" before "the (mini) Rivalry" this weekend against "that school in Easton". It will take place at 7:00 PM, and (as always) will be broadcast on lehighsports.com.
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