• Sophomore Sean Harrison posted the first hat trick of his career with three goals on the night.
• Redshirt-senior Austin Geisler finished his HPU career with 13 saves and two ground balls.
• Junior Matt Thistle posted two goals and one assist for the Panthers.
TOWSON, Md. – The High Point University men’s lacrosse team’s breakthrough season culminated in NCAA First Four action Wednesday night, where the Panthers pushed No. 17 Towson to the limit before falling 10-8 inside Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The Panthers scored the first five goals of the game but were held scoreless over the next 30 minutes as Towson built an 8-5 lead midway through the third quarter that it would not relinquish.
High Point ends its 2015 season with a 10-7 record. The Panthers earned their first Southern Conference Championship and NCAA Tournament berth in just the program’s third season of NCAA competition.
“I’m proud of our guys,” head coach Jon Torpey said. “They were resilient and never stopped fighting. We’ve talked about playing for our 17 seniors and we can’t thank them enough for the work they’ve done for this program throughout the last four years. My heart hurts for those guys today because they deserve to have a chance to play on.”
In his final game in a High Point University uniform, redshirt-senior goalkeeper Austin Geisler shined for the Purple & White, making 13 saves while allowing just 10 goals to post a solid .565 save percentage. Geisler finishes his HPU career with 552 career saves and a .553 save percentage.
Sophomore Sean Harrison led the Panthers offensively with the first hat trick of his career. Two of the Ellicot City, Md., native’s three goals came in the second half to keep the Panthers within striking distance.
Junior Matt Thistle added three points on two goals and an assist while sophomore Michael LeClair added a goal, an assist and two ground balls.
Junior Jamie Piluso won the opening faceoff of the game and started a break to the goal. LeClair found freshman T Moyer who played a tough angle into the back of the cage for the score and a 1-0 Panther lead just seven seconds into the contest.
Then, less than three minutes later (11:15 1Q), HPU put together a slower, more meticulous possession that ended with a score from LeClair off a great feed from Thistle. Thistle made a pretty move to the cage and finished a minute later to make it 3-0 HPU at the 10:10 mark of the first quarter.
Back-to-back goals from redshirt-junior Brad James and Harrison increased the HPU opening surge to 5-0 (6:15 1Q) before Towson finally put a goal on the board with 2:30 to play in the first quarter. The Tigers added another to trail 5-2 at the end of the opening period.
Towson notched three goals over the first 4:55 of the second quarter to increase its run to 5-0 and tie the score (5-5). After six minutes of scoreless action, the Tigers added a goal with 3:59 to play in the half and took that 6-5 lead into the break.
Neither team could score over the first 10 minutes of the third period, during which Geisler made a duo of excellent saves for the Panthers. But the Tigers struck with a pair of goals over the next 1:30 to build an 8-5 edge with 3:19 to go in the quarter.
Harrison broke the 30-minute scoreless drought for the Panthers a minute later after beating his man and putting one in the back of the cage to make it 8-6.
Towson responded with two more scores to increase the lead to 10-6 with 10:46 to play in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers continued to fight back. Harrison notched a goal at the 9:59 mark to cut the lead to 10-7, then after more than eight minutes of back and forth action, Thistle posted his second score to move HPU within two (10-8, 1:53 4Q).
The Panthers then won the ensuing faceoff with a man up opportunity, but HPU could not score on the possession and Towson escaped with the two-goal victory.