BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Fifth-seeded Holy Cross took control of the game early with three tallies in the first 13 minutes and held off fourth-seeded Lehigh to clinch a 3-0 victory a the Patriot League quarterfinal round matchup Tuesday night at Ulrich Sports Complex. The Crusaders advances to the semifinal round and will face No. 1 seed Loyola Friday at 5 p.m. in Baltimore, Md.
Holy Cross (7-8-3) scored all three of its goals in a span of 10 minutes as All-Patriot League selection and Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Arno Rupp, netted the first tally in the third minute. Nicholas Cestaro tallied the second in the 12th minute and Brad Ross tacked on a third in the 13th minute. Max Krause tied the Patriot League Tournament single-game record as he assisted on two goals on the night.
After going 34-straight days without being shutout, Lehigh (11-7-1) has now been blanked twice by Holy Cross in a span of four days coming off a 1-0 loss in Worcester, Mass. last Saturday. The Patriot League’s sixth-best scoring defense handed the league’s top scoring offense just its second back-to-back shutouts this season.
A costly miscue early put Holy Cross on the board. A clearing attempt by Will Smith was blocked by Rupp inside the box and the ball landed at the attacker’s feet. With a wide-open net in front of him, Rupp gathered himself and finished his shot with ease for the game’s first tally.
The Crusaders got on the board again when Krause sprung Cestaro up the right side. Cestaro had a step on his defender and buried his shot to the upper corner. Krause handed out his second assist of the night on the entry pass on a corner kick. His service found the head of Ross on the backside, who netted his first tally of the season to give Holy Cross a 3-0 lead in the 13th minute.
The Lehigh offense went to work the rest of the first half in an attempt to find a goal before halftime. The Mountain Hawks recorded 10 shots in the remaining 32 minutes of the half with four on goal to take a 11-4 shot advantage into halftime.
One of Lehigh’s best chances in the first half was on a rebound attempt in the 39th minute following a corner. John Marc Charpentier had the initial shot, which was saved, and Blaise Milanek was denied on the door step a second time by Henry Stutz.
The Mountain Hawks went back to work in the second half, racking up a 11-4 shot margin and desperately searching for a goal. The Holy Cross defense seemed to always get a foot on a shot or step into the passing lanes in the final third as they brought a well-organized approach all night.
Lehigh closed out a season that reversed its record from 2016 (7-10-1) and had two players, Mark Forrest and Doyle Tuvesson, record the best offensive numbers by a Lehigh player in over two decades. The Mountain Hawks tied its program record with six players named to the All-Patriot League team and had its first major ward winner in seven seasons.
The departure of seven seniors will certainly pose its challenges as the team seeks to fill new roles moving into the offseason, but the talent is rich all levels throughout the program. The Mountain Hawks return eight of its regular starters and are poised to for a return to trip to the postseason next year.