The 2013 season is six months away. Let's punch fate in the face and make wild assumptions about what could be the best 20 teams in the country next year.
Important People: David DiMaria (A); Dante Fantoni (A); Matt Poillon (G); Ty Souders (D); Mike Noone (D)
Formerly Important People: Cameron Lao-Gosney (M); Roman Lao-Gosney (M); Adam Johnston (A); Kevin Donovan, Jr. (A)
Final 2012 Poll Positions: Media: 9; Coaches: 4
2012 Record: 14-3 (5-1, Patriot)
2012 Snapshot: No, you don't look fat!
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It's a pretty fair question: Did Lehigh simply play out of its collectively insane mind last season? This isn't exactly a program with a ton of legacy, and a 14-win season out of nowhere raises thoughts of the Mountain Hawks' rival down the road -- Lafayette -- who put together a surprising 8-6 season in 2010 after doing nothing, like, always and falling back into the gutter immediately thereafter. (Admittedly, Cassese has had Lehigh pointed in the right direction since 2010, but you get the idea.) There are simply underlying issues here that make you wonder whether Lehigh is going to be able to crush skulls in 2013 like they did in 2012:
- How much will the departure of the Lao-Gosney brothers (and their dodging presence) impact this team through the midfield and the offense as a whole?
- Everyone now knows what DiMaria and Fantoni mean to Lehigh; how will opponents react?
- This is the first time in the history of history that Lehigh has the bulls-eye on their back; how will they handle the pressure and respond?
So, for the Mountain Hawks, it isn't necessarily a rash of senior leadership leaving the program that is going to create questions about their ability next season; it's about what those seniors are leaving in their wake -- crushing expectations for a program that really hasn't had them in the past -- that makes me concerned about Lehigh next year.
A Thousand White Doves
Assuming that Kevin Cassese doesn't blow a genius gasket and deviate too far from last year's model for success -- building from the back and limiting total opposing offensive opportunities due to a deflated pace -- Lehigh is going to be a giant pain in the ass for its slate of opponents again in 2013. The core of the Mountain Hawks' defensive unit returns, including rising-sophomore soul-eater Matt Poillon between the pipes, a core of close defenders that are built for destruction in Lukas Mikelinich, Souders, and Noone, and underrated long-stick midfielder Dylan O'Shaughnessy and short-stick defensive midfielder Noah Molnar. This core -- the strongest in the Patriot League and one of the best in the country -- should frustrate opponents to the point of impotence (not unlike what the Mountain Hawks did last season). I'm not completely sold that Lehigh is on the defensive level of some of its peers, but the unit is the bedrock to the Mountain Hawks' success and it should -- once again -- be the driving force behind Lehigh's residence in the top-10.