This was Lehigh's out-of-conference slate in 2013: St. Joseph's, Villanova, Denver, Air Force, VMI, Pennsylvania, Penn State, and Massachusetts. Here's how many of those teams will appear on Lehigh's out-of-conference schedule in 2014: One -- Villanova. The Mountain Hawks have completely revamped its nonconference opponent slate from a season ago, putting a ton of new faces -- both to Lehigh and to Division I lacrosse -- on its schedule for the upcoming spring. The growth of the Patriot League has likely impacted how Lehigh approached its schedule constitution for 2014, but regardless, this Mountain Hawks slate looks nothing like what it played a season ago.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
. . . And You Are? (Part I)
February 1: @Furman; February 8: Marquette; March 26: Monmouth
That's three fresh programs -- two entering their first season of play ever at the Division I level and the other entering just its second year as a varsity program -- that Lehigh will face in 2014, lean protein that should be inhaled with little issue. The Mountain Hawks are undergoing a bit of an offensive transformation with the graduations of David DiMaria and Dante Fantoni, and opening up the schedule with the Paladins and Golden Eagles should create an opportunity for Lehigh to find an identity early in the year. The inclusion of these three teams on the Mountain Hawks' out-of-conference schedule isn't a team-for-team swap from 2013 -- you could argue that VMI and St. Joseph's were dumped for comparable teams, but there's still the addition of another team located toward the bottom of college lacrosse's hierarchy to consider -- but given Lehigh's potential development arc, it's hard to throw too much shade in the direction of Bethlehem for the inclusion of these three programs on the Mountain Hawks' schedule.
. . . And You Are? (Part II)
March 11: @Yale; April 8: @Princeton
Kaboom! Lehigh drops Penn State, Denver, and Pennsylvania from the schedule and totally redeems itself with two high-profile road games against what could be top 10 teams. Princeton's offensive juggernaut against Lehigh's defensive tank is going to be a must-watch, and the Mountain Hawks' trip to Yale -- a mid-week adventure to southern Connecticut -- has all the makings of a potentially explosive knife fight. Lehigh has met Yale eight times in its history -- most recently from 2010 through 2012 -- but haven't met Princeton since 1935. This is what makes these games so interesting: One has recent history pitting teams experiencing their greatest extended success in their history; the other is full of questions as neither team has stepped on the same field together since the invention of rock and roll.
Tighten the Chin Straps
March 1: Loyola; March 8: @Bucknell; March 11: @Yale
It's good that Lehigh is starting early in 2014 because that stretch at the beginning of March -- three games in 10 days against elite competition -- could determine the Mountain Hawks' season. The first section of that trio of games -- the conference dates -- are vitally important for Lehigh's 2014 campaign: The Mountain Hawks are likely to start Patriot League play 1-0 with a victory over Boston University, but the games against Loyola and Bucknell -- the other two assumed challengers for the conference title -- makes room for error very small. Starting 1-2 in conference play is a difficult hole to come out of, and Lehigh needs to avoid that at all costs. It's a brutal stretch of games without relief, and Lehigh is going to need to enter March ready for the predators it is going to face.