Last week both the Men’s and Women’s teams picked up wins in the Patriot League. The Women remain unbeaten, having taken on Boston University and come out on top in a tough contest. The Women then beat Sienna just yesterday to improve to 7-0 on the season. As of this writing, Army’s Women are ranked #13 nationally in both polls.
Friends, if you’re not watching Army Women’s Lax this season, you’re missing something truly special.
The Men beat Lafayette in what was a much closer game than the final score indicates. Army came out slow, going 1-0 early in the 1st quarter. They then traded goals with the Leopards until the Black Knights finally broke the game open with four minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. From there, they took care of business and escaped with a win.
As we said last week, Lafayette has a good team. They will upset someone big this season. Thankfully, it wasn’t the Black Knights, who now must look to the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.
Lehigh-Army has produced some of the best Patriot League thrillers of the last few years. At this point, the Mountain Hawks might just be Army’s biggest men’s lacrosse rival in-conference, save for the Boat School. This will be a close game, featuring some of the most physical lacrosse available. Here are a few Keys to Victory for the Black Knights as they head into the Lehigh Valley.
Battle of Titans at the X
This is the matchup we have been waiting for. This weekend, Army’s breakout faceoff man Will Colletti will get a chance at faceoff supremacy – for the Patriot League and perhaps for the NCAA as a whole – as he takes on incumbent faceoff Man of the Year Mikey Sisselberger. Sisselberger has dazzled NCAA D1 Lacrosse for years now with a combination of incredible strength and an ability to overpower almost any opposition. He is widely regarded as the top guy in the Patriot League and as a Top 3 player in the NCAA as a whole.
But Colletti’s play this season has put him into the mix. A good showing this weekend might well mark a change at the top.
This matchup is a marquee matchup not only because of the talent involved but also because of the impact it will have on the game. Lehigh and Army both have had the luxury of having a faceoff unit that rarely loses this season. This allows each team to go on long scoring runs and create fast-paced, relentless offensive opportunities.
Each faceoff will be a battle this week. That means that each team’s strength, their ability get the ball and keep the ball, will be truly be tested.
.@lehighlacrosse coach Kevin Cassese and 5th year student Mike Sisselberger preview the team's upcoming matchup against Army on Lehigh Sports Central presented by Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute, part of @lvhn pic.twitter.com/eZHWwEadRf— Lehigh Sports (@LehighSports) March 15, 2023
Looking at the Black Knight in the Mirror
Lehigh’s playstyle is eerily similar to Army’s. This has been the case for years, and it’s probably why these games are always so close. Both teams rely on tough play on defense coupled to precision striking from the offense. Both teams are also coached by long time defensive gurus, guys who pride themselves on coaching toughness and grit. But one key difference this year comes from roster production. Lehigh relies heavily on their senior class where Army spreads the ball around and lets its underclassmen carry the load.
Unlike years past, this iteration of Army-Lehigh will not feature a Kirst Brother (see also: the Rutgers-Lehigh-Cornell Kirst brothers). That helps. If Army can limit the production of Lehigh’s Christian Mule and Scott Cole, that will take away more than three quarters of the total assists on the team. This will in turn force the Mountain Hawks away from their usual offensive game plan, forcing other guys to step up. From there, the Black Knights might just force a few turnovers.
Defense has stepped up during our win streak 💪— Army Men's Lacrosse (@ArmyWP_MLax) March 15, 2023
They've allowed an average of 7.8 goals per game and rank third in the nation in scoring defense overall at 8.17 goals allowed per game. #GoArmy | #FamilyToughnessTradition pic.twitter.com/wN1sTibhrC
Strength in Numbers
Army has gotten a lot of production out of a huge chunk of its roster. At this point, the Black Knights have four separate players – Reese Burek, Evan Plunkett, Jacob Morin, and Paul Johnson– who have at least 18 or more points this season. What’s even better is that there are another four players – Gunnar Fellows, Bailey O’Connor, Ryan Sposito, and Finn McCullough – who have at least 5 or more points.
That’s actually incredible.
Bottom line, the Black Knights can get points from pretty much anyone, anywhere on the field. This has been a HUGE asset. Teams can’t key in on one player when Army goes on offense because the second they do, someone else is gonna bury a goal. Look for this depth to pay off, both in this game and later on in the season.
Army and Lehigh come into this game in similar spots overall. Both teams currently sit 5-1 on the season, having beaten the crud out of Holy Cross early in Patriot League play. Army won that game 13-6 whereas Lehigh won it 18-11. The Black Knights started the season unranked but have risen to #12/#13/#15, depending on whom you ask. Lehigh also started the season unranked but is now receiving votes in most polls. Plus, the Mountain Hawks have already beaten Navy, so they’ve got us there.
With that said, Army is favored this week, and as noted, the Black Knights need to win the games they are supposed to win. Lehigh is a high quality opponent who’s more than capable of keeping this game close or even coming out on top, especially because of the way these teams match up. A victory this week will tell a lot about the identity of this Army team as they look to the Patriot League Tournament and beyond.
See you all on Saturday!
Go Army! Beat Lehigh!!!
* Cover image via Army West Point Lacrosse on Facebook.