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Women's Patriot League Quarterfinals: Lafayette

A nine game winning streak to end the year?  That's good, I think.

Achieving two thirty-point wins against Bucknell and Holy Cross at home last week?  That's OK, I guess.

A well-deserved Patriot League Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year award for senior G Erica Prosser? That's nice.

But you've got to believe that the Lady Hawks are excited about one thing, and one thing only about the first round of the Patriot League tournament Saturday night at Stabler arena - the fact that Lehigh has the opportunity to enact some revenge. (more)

"We started out a little rough defensively, but that changed as the game progressed," head coach Sue Troyan told the Brown & White after their 83-55 thumping of Holy Cross. "We were able to contest their perimeter shots and disrupt their offensive sets. As a result, we were able to get easy buckets in transition."

No senior had a better senior night than F Courtney Dentler, who concluded her regular-season career with 21 points and 13 rebounds to go with Prosser's 19 points and 10 assists.

"I am really proud of this group of seniors," Troyan said.  "They have meant so much to this program and I couldn’t have asked for a better group than this. They really have worked hard, they have represented our program and this University well."

The win over Holy Cross capped off a furious end to the regular season for the Lady Hawks, where they won nine games in a row and showed some of the championship form they showed going into Patriot League play.  They finished tied for the regular-season title - but gained the No. 2 seed, losing the tiebreaker to the No. 1 seed Navy.

The great finish was enough to see Prosser earn a ton of hardware from the Patriot League office - not totally unexpected - as well as Dentler's presence on the second team all-Patriot League team.

And as luck may have it, they'll face a familiar foe in the first round of the Patriot League tournament - a certain school in Easton.

Not only has Lafayette been a frequent, tough opponent for Lehigh in the tournament - the type of team where you throw out the records, and the lower seed has absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain - but the Lady Leopards also happened to be the last team to defeat the Lady Hawks during the 2010-2011 regular season as well.

57-54.  At home.

"They've always been tough when we've faced them in the tournament," Troyan said after the Holy Cross game.  "Three years ago in the first round at Army was a tough game, two years ago in the championship game was another tough game.  It seems like they're always a tough matchup."

Troyan didn't mention the home loss to Lafayette during the regular season, but she made it abundantly clear that this senior class "knows what's at stake. Four games ago, we said we're treating this like a mini-tournament, and really challenged them to get around and see where we can finish up."

While there could be a gag order about mentioning the Lady Leopards by name - even when Dentler was asked specifically after the Holy Cross game about their regular-season loss to Lafayette, she pointedly evaded the question - it can't be a coincidence that one of those games in their 'mini-tournament' was against Lafayette at Easton, a game which the Lady Hawks dominated 70-49.

It's easy to look at that result, and the seedings - the No. 2 playing the No. 7 - and anticipate a Leopard beatdown.  But there's plenty of warning signs for the Lady Hawks going into Saturday.

Two years ago, like this season, Lafayette entered the Patriot League Tournament as the No. 7 seed. Playing at Stabler Arena - Lehigh hosted the entire tournament that year - the Leopards pulled off a quarterfinal upset, squeaking by American 58-56.

Lafayette's first-year head coach, Dianne Nolan, certainly must be looking at that year's results - as well as their regular-season win - as a good sign that her team has what it takes to win this game.

Lafayette’s senior class, including G LaKeisha Wright and F Elizabeth Virgin will be playing to prolong their careers, and word that 6'7 freshman F Danielle Fiacco will probably be making her return for the playoffs as well, which should give the Lady Leopards a huge boost.

Lafayette enters Saturday with a No. 7 seed, with nothing to lose, and would love nothing better to send Lehigh packing and start another magical tournament run.  Lehigh loses, they're done.  Lafayette loses, they're done.

That's what makes this weekend's first-round matchup - at 7:00 PM at Stabler - something you've got to catch.

Tickets are still available - and affordable - but the game will also be televised on Service Electic 2, with Steve Degler and Jim Wills on the call.  Matt Markus will be covering the game on 91.3 WLVR.


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