• Sophomore Michael LeClair tallied two goals including the game-winner with 4:11 to play.
• Redshirt-senior Austin Geisler made 10 saves while collecting five ground balls to earn the win in goal.
• High Point advances to the Southern Conference Championship to face No. 1 Richmond at 2 p.m. on ESPN3.
RICHMOND, Va. – Sophomore Michael LeClair came through in the clutch for the High Point University men’s lacrosse team to lead the squad to a 7-6 win over Mercer in Richmond, Va. on Thursday night.
The Panthers (9-6, 4-2) and the Bears (5-8, 5-1) found themselves tied with just over four minutes left when LeClair scored the game-winner. It was the Elkridge, Md. native’s second straight contest with the deciding goal after posting the game-winner against Bellarmine on April 25.
“It’s a credit to our team because we have threats all over the field,” LeClair said about his second goal. “[Sophomore] Sean Harrison drew a slide and I was able to get it past the goalie.”
Junior Matt Thistle tallied three points (1g, 2a) while junior Dan Lomas and Harrison each registered one score apiece. Freshman T Moyer equaled a career high with two goals.
“That was a hard-fought game, it was tournament lacrosse,” head coach Jon Torpey said. “The defensive effort was great for both teams tonight and both teams were able to limit shot opportunities.”
Defensively, redshirt-senior Austin Geisler had a stellar performance in goal for HPU with 10 saves and five ground balls.
“It’s so awesome to have Austin back,” Torpey said. “He’s a leader. He’s a winner. He has been a selfless guy this year and we knew if he could be healthy, then we’d have a good shot at winning.”
Mercer won the ground ball battle (28-21) and took 13 more shots than HPU. However, the Panthers were able to overcome those obstacles with solid man-down defense – Mercer was 0-3 in EMO – and found the back of the net on half of their shots on goal (7-of-14).
The Bears won the opening face-off and took advantage as Tim Geran scored to make it 1-0 (13:21). Moyer posted an unassisted goal of his own to even the score at 1-1 with 10:22 left in the opening quarter.
Mercer, then, regained the lead with a goal by Bryan Gibson from right of the goal to make it 2-1 with 5:17 to play in the first stanza. Once again, the Panthers had the answer as Harrison scored to knot the game back up at 2-2 (1:24).
Early in the second quarter HPU was called for a penalty to set up Mercer with an extra-man opportunity. However, a huge save by Geisler allowed the Panthers to kill the penalty and gain possession. LeClair didn’t let the chance go to waste and scored off an assist from Thistle to put HPU on top for the first time at 3-2 (11:12).
After a great ground ball pickup by redshirt-junior Harris Levine on the face-off, Thistle snuck around the right side of the goal to score and put the Panthers up 4-2 (9:56, 2nd). But the Bears stopped the Panthers’ 3-0 run with Gibson’s second goal of the night (5:53). However, Moyer came right back his second goal of the half to send the Panthers to the locker room up 5-3.
The Bears held the Panthers scoreless in the third period to win the frame 2-0 and send the game to the fourth quarter tied 5-5.
HPU opened the fourth quarter with a man-up chance and capitalized when Lomas scored off an assist from Thistle (6-5, 14:42). However, Mercer wouldn’t go away as Chris Rahill scored two minutes later to tie the score at 6-all.
Over the next eight minutes, neither team could break the stalemate as both goalies made huge saves until HPU finally broke through. Harrison found LeClair who scored his second goal of the game to give the Panthers a 7-6 advantage with 4:11 to go.
From there, the Purple & White were able to hold off the Bears and advance to the Southern Conference Championship game.
High Point will face-off with Richmond at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday in Richmond, Va. with a spot in the NCAA tournament on the line. The game will be aired on ESPN3.
It is the second consecutive season that the Panthers and Spiders will play in the conference title game. Richmond won last year’s meeting 8-7 in Macon, Ga.