HPU MLAX Panthers Take On Bears In SoCon Semis

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The High Point University men’s lacrosse team heads to Richmond, Va. for a semifinal showdown with Mercer at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The Panthers (8-6, 4-2) finished a game behind the Bears (5-7, 5-1) in the Southern Conference Standings and will enter the semifinals as the No. 3 seed. Mercer is coming off its first conference loss of the season, a 10-6 setback to Richmond, but owns a 12-11 overtime victory over HPU this season.

Last Time Out:

The Purple & White honored their 17 seniors with a dramatic 10-9 win over Bellarmine on Saturday, April 25 in Vert Stadium. Junior Dan Lomas sparked the offense by tying his own program record with six goals, while freshman Zach Tuell moved to 4-0 in goal on the strength of 15 saves.

The Panthers fell behind by two goals early in the opening quarter and didn’t take the lead until sophomore Michael LeClair scored with 40 seconds left in the contest. It was LeClair’s third goal of the game as he, Lomas and junior Matt Thistle (1g, 2a) combined for 12 of the team’s 15 points.

Junior Jamie Piluso controlled the game at the face-off ‘X.’ The Ridgewood, N.J. native went 17-of-21 (.810) with nine ground balls and dished out an assist. Redshirt-juniors Harris Levine and Adam Seal helped HPU win the possession battle with four ground balls apiece. The midfield line got even more help from redshirt-junior Brad James who added two assists.

Defensively, the Panthers held the Knights scoreless in the fourth quarter to set the table for the comeback win. Senior Pat Farrell led the way with two of the team’s seven caused turnovers. High Point compiled a +8 margin (14-6) in ground balls in the second half to post a 30-22 advantage for the contest.

The Opponent:
Mercer opened the season with five straight loses before getting off to a 4-0 start in SoCon play. However, the squad is 1-2 in their last three games including a 10-5 loss at Richmond on Saturday, April 25.

The Spiders got out to an 8-1 lead at halftime and cruised to the win to lock up the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. The Bears got one goal and one assist from junior Chris Baxa, sophomore Chris Rahill and freshman Scott Baird.

The strength of the team is its defense, which is led by Second Team All-SoCon selections senior Mike Nugent and sophomore Colin Massa. Nugent led the conference with 13.08 saves per game and made 20 stops in the 12-11 overtime win over HPU earlier in the season. Massa has caused seven turnovers and grabbed 19 ground balls on the year.

Meanwhile, Rahill and Baxa pace Mercer’s offensive attack. Rahill led the team with 32 points (18g, 14a), but it was Baxa on the Second Team All-SoCon team with 22 goals and four assists. Senior Tim Geran was the fourth Bear to earn second team recognition after posting 19 points (10g, 9a).

Senior Justin Evans is the team’s face-off specialist and is fourth in the league with a .520 winning percentage. Evans went 12-of-26 (.462) in the win over HPU on March 14.

Panther Notes:

• The Bears lead the all-time series with the Panthers 2-1, the running score in the three contests is 32-32. Mercer’s wins have come by one and HPU’s was by two goals.

• Juniors Dan Lomas and junior Matt Thistle along with sophomore Michael LeClair is the nation’s fourth highest scoring trio to return after combining for 125 points in 2014. The trio has accounted for 131 points this season.

• All three are among top-five scorers in the SoCon this season. Thistle leads the league with 3.67 ppg, while LeClair is third (3.29 ppg) and Lomas is fifth (3.15 ppg).

• Lomas was selected as the SoCon Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 38 goals. The Burlington, Ontario native won Atlantic Sun Offensive Player of the Year in 2014.

• Junior Jamie Piluso joined Lomas on the First Team All-SoCon team after leading the conference in ground balls and finishing second in face-off percentage. Senior Pat Farrell, redshirt-junior Harris Levine, junior Matt Thistle and sophomore Michael LeClair all earned Second Team All-SoCon honors. Freshmen T Moyer and Connor Robinson combined for 30 points to earn All-SoCon Freshman Team accolades.

• Freshman Zach Tuell started three games in goal and is 4-0 on the season. The Gainesville, Va. native has 52 saves and a .667 save percentage this year. Tuell doesn’t qualify for the national save percentage rankings, which is topped by Monmouth’s Garrett Conaway and his .640 save percentage.

• Senior Pat Farrell and junior Zack Price have combined to cause 41 turnovers and are the only teammates to rank in the top-12 nationally in CTs per game. Price is seventh (1.86/g) while Farrell is 12th (1.71/g).

• Jamie Piluso is 12th in the nation and leads the SoCon with a .588 face-off percentage. He was 17-of-21 against Bellarmine on April 25.