Skip to main content

Weekend Wrapup: An Unexpected "Rivalry" Finale, and the "Lucky Seven" EIWA finishers

It sure didn't look like this was going to be how the Patriot League women's basketball championship would end up going into the tournament. Not so much No. 1-seeded Lehigh's presence in the tournament - but that the opponent is the No. 7 seed Lehigh fans love to hate.

My family and I were there yesterday, watching Lehigh overcome a slow start and a three point deficit at halftime to finally overwhelm the Army Lady Knights 61-42. Facing off against an Army team that beat the Lady Hawks 54-52 at Christl Arena and who gave them a run for their money in a 66-58 game on Valentine's day in Stabler, I was worried about this game from the outset.

But the ladies responded with an extraordinary second half where Lehigh shot 57.7% from the field and turned the screws defensively, only allowing 18 points in the second half. The unquestioned hero was senior G Tricia Smith, who came very close to a double-double with 12 points and 9 rebounds. When freshman C Alexa Williams took a nasty elbow to the face in the first half and had to leave, there was no dropoff: freshman F/C Emily Gratch jumped right in with 10 points and 7 rebounds in her place.

Worthy of mention the play of sophomore G Erica Prosser (14 points, 3 steals) and junior G Alex Ross (13 points) as well, but watching the game it was abundantly clear how much of a team effort this game was. It's clear how much the contributions of senior F Haly Crites, senior G Claire Sullivan and senior C Melissa Rich meant as well - double-digit minutes that didn't necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but were crucial to the victory.

*****

And what's the only thing keeping the 25-6 Lady Hawks (Real Time RPI: 69) from crossing off one of the biggest items on their bucket list? Going into the tournament, I thought that if Lehigh made it through the first two rounds, it was going to be No. 2-ranked American for sure.

I would have never believed that it would be "that school in Easton".

But it is. Yes, it is. Yes, 10-21 Lafayette (Real Time RPI: 245). The No. 7 seed. The Leopards, who went 4-12 in Patriot League play and who lost to the Lady Hawks by 21 points in January at Stabler and by 15 points at Kirby.

How did the Lady Leopards do it? Start with sophomore G/F LaKeisha Wright's game-winning jumper against No. 2-seeded American with 19 seconds to play - the margin of victory against the Eagles. Against Navy, Lafayette looked a lot like, well, Lehigh: playing tough defense while shooting 46% themselves in their 62-55 victory. Sophomore F Elizabeth Virgin played lights-out this weekend scoring in double figures both games, while Navy's focus on Wright saw senior G Jessica Spicer sink Navy for 17 points - including 4-for-8 from 3 point land.

This matchup - without a doubt - is the dream matchup for Lehigh and Lafayette fans alike. It's not only a rematch of 1997's championship game (which led to Lehigh's only Patriot League women's basketball championship and NCAA Tournament appearance) -it promises, quite possibly, a sellout crowd in Stabler filled with white-shirted Lafayette fans and brown-shirted Lehigh fans. It will be seen on national television on ESPNU ("El Ocho") at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Make no mistake, this Wednesday will be big time.

*****

Cornell was always going to be a very tough out in the EIWA championships, even with Lehigh's 21-1 dual record. While the Lehigh grapplers gave them a good run, they finished EIWA in second place to the Big Red. This year, though, Lehigh wrestlers earned two individual championships - and (at least) seven wrestlers heading to St. Louis to prove their mettle on the national stage.

The big story for Lehigh was junior 184 lb David Craig, who didn't give up a single point in the entire championship and dominated Cornell's Justin Kerber in the championship bout at 184 lbs. Criag is a real threat to be an individial champion in St. Louis, as is junior 141 lb Seth Ciasulli, who upset No. 1-seed Corey Janzen out of Harvard to win the individual title. Freshman heavyweight Zach Rey came close to making it three individual champions, but lost in a decision to Columbia's Ryan Flores.

Junior 133 lb Matt Fisk (3rd), junior 165 lb Mike Galante (3rd), senior 149 lb Trevor Chinn (4th), sophomore Alex Caruso (4th) and freshman 125 lb John McDonald all will be headed to nationals as automatic qualifiers.

And lest I forget, Lehigh head wrestling coach Steve Santoro won an impressive piece of hardware himself: EIWA Coach of the Year. Congratulations to everyone - and we'll see if Lehigh will send a few more to nationals in terms of at-large wrestlers, too.

Comments

ngineer said…
Correction there LFN. McDonald is NOT going to NCAA's. 174 pounder Caruso is. McDonald finished 6th and Caruso finished fourth.

Popular posts from this blog

Remembering Lehigh's Battles With The Late Tubby Raymond

(Photo Credits: Delaware Online)

When I heard the news Tubby Raymond, legendary Delaware head football coach, died last week at the age of 92, two immediate memories came rushing back to me.

One occurred on October 16th, 1999, when Tubby had made a complaint to the local paper or radio in the run-up to Kevin Higgins' Mountain Hawks beating his Blue Hens on Delaware's homecoming, 42-35.

I have no idea if the quote even actually happened, but my recollection is that Tubby said that Lehigh had "St. Bartholomew's" on their schedule, and hadn't played anybody.  It was a verbal jab that many Delaware fans took with them to the stands to heckle the Mountain Hawk fans that made the short trip to Newark.

Up until that point, I had watched a bunch of Lehigh football games over the years.  I experienced their rise in the 1990s.  I enjoyed wins, and championships, and playoff victories.

But never had I felt a win so viscerally vindicating than the one over Tubby Raymond&…

Lehigh Wrestling Gets Superstar Treatment at PPL Center. Lehigh Football Needs The Same At Murray Goodman.

"We knew it would be nice," Lehigh wrestling head coach Pat Santoro said. "But it was even better than we expected."

Pat was talking about the reception his Lehigh wrestling squad experienced at Allentown's PPL Center this weekend, when a sellout crowd over nearly 10,000 people came to watch No. 1 Penn State grapple with No. 5 Lehigh in a collegiate wrestling event.

It was, by all accounts, something special to behold. 

"I thought it was really cool and an exciting place to wrestle," said Penn State wrestler Nick Nevills. "These fans were really into it, a rowdy bunch. It's a lot more fun as an athlete to wrestle in an environment like this. I'd say it was one of the most exciting times I have had in my career."

The sense of spectacle at the PPL center, though, puts a spotlight on what more can be done at Lehigh itself to make their athletic contests into spectacles.  It requires money to be spent and energy to be expended.  But the…

Troy Pelletier Hasn't Stopped Outworking His Rivals On His Journey To Professional Football

Many Patriot League football fans remember the 153rd meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette, one that ended happily for the Mountain Hawks.

They might remember the MVP performance of QB Brad Mayes, or perhaps the halftime speech by OL Zach Duffy that seemed to spur the Mountain Hawks to victory.

Or perhaps they might remember the spectacular single play of Mayes rolling right and finding WR Gatlin Casey in the end zone to give the Mountain Hawks a lead they didn't relinquish.  It was an incredible play by Mayes, who returns this upcoming year for his senior season, and Casey, who, having exhausted his eligibility at Lehigh, will be playing one more year at Middle Tennessee State.

As great as those individual moments are, though, they are not my biggest takeaway of that game.

Too many Lehigh people forget that Lehigh was down 31-21 at half, and that victory was no sure thing.  And they sometimes forget that so much of that victory came from the grinding of WR Troy Pelletier, deliver…