Vikings to Face Tough Tests Out West

Vikings to Face Tough Tests Out West

Clevealnd State (2-2) at No. 1 Denver (2-0)
Saturday, Feb. 25 | 3:30 p.m. ET

Cleveland State (2-2) vs. Air Force (1-2)
Sunday, Feb. 26 | 1:00 p.m. ET

Denver, Colo | Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium

Saturday Video ($) | Saturday Audio | Saturday Live Stats

Sunday Audio | Sunday Live Stats

PDF Game Notes

The Cleveland State University men's lacrosse team makes its longest trip of the season as it heads to the westernmost outpost of Division I men's lacrosse. The Vikings face No. 1 Denver Saturday in the second game of the Pioneers' Faceoff Classic. Cleveland State will meet Air Force Sunday to close its action in the event.

Denver is ranked No. 1 in both national polls. The Pioneers won the national title in 2015 and have reached the national semifinals in four of the past six seasons. Denver is 2-0 with both wins coming against nationally ranked foes. Air Force is coming off one of its best-ever seasons, as it went 15-3 a year ago and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Falcons were selected in the preseason top-20 for the first time ever and were voted to repeat their title in the Southern Conference.

Cleveland State registered its first victory in program history this past Saturday with a 9-2 triumph over Baldwin Wallace. The Vikings scored five goals in the opening 12 minutes and used a stout defensive effort to cruise to the win. Tristen Copeland posted the program's first hat trick with four goals while the Vikings held the Yellow Jackets to an 8-for-17 mark on clears.

With Cleveland State playing both Saturday and Sunday this weekend, it will be the second of three times this season that the Vikings play two games in a span of under 24 hours. All the other Division I startups within the past decade played on back-to-back days a combined two times in their inaugural seasons.

Jake Lewis has served as the Vikings' most consistent offensive weapon in the early going. He is the only Viking to score in each of the team's first four games. Lewis is also the only Viking to contribute multiple points in each game. He set season bests in goals (3) and points (4) in last Sunday's win over John Carroll.

Head coach Dylan Sheridan is plenty familiar with Peter Barton Stadium. The Vikings' top man was at Denver for four seasons under Bill Tierney. He began his tenure as a volunteer assistant before eventually being promoted to defensive coordinator.

While it is expected that a first-year program would have a large group of freshmen, head coach Dylan Sheridan has gone further than recent startup programs. Sheridan has expressed a desire to have his first team mainly consist of freshmen that were all going through the same new experiences at the same time. Thirty four of the 37 Vikings on the roster are true freshmen. Of the more than a dozen programs to begin Division I men's lacrosse within the past decade, Cleveland State has the highest percentage of freshmen on its roster at 91.9%. On the other side of the coin, half of the recent startups had fewer than 70% of their inaugural roster composed of freshmen.

Cleveland State's inaugural season is not the only new lacrosse development in Ohio this spring. For the first time, the Ohio High School Athletic Association, the primary governing body for interscholastic athletics in Ohio, is sponsoring boys and girls lacrosse. The Board of Directors of the OHSAA voted unanimously to add lacrosse in the summer of 2015. It is the first time the organization has added sports since 2006-07. The season begins March 17, and four state title games, two per gender, will take place June 3.

With his program in its inaugural season, head coach Dylan Sheridan has elected to rotate the team captain duties on a game-by-game basis.

Although Cleveland State did not play any official games this past fall, the program still put up some impressive numbers. The Vikings posted a 3.19 grade point average in their inaugural semester as a program. Freshman Logan Bradford, a civil engineering major, posted the first 4.0 semester average in team history.

The first regular-season game for Cleveland State University also represented the collegiate head coaching debut of Dylan Sheridan. However, this was not the first time Sheridan has served as a head coach on a big stage. The Ohio native was the head coach for Thailand during the 2014 World Lacrosse Championships. Despite the Asian nation participating in the World Championships for the first time, Sheridan led his squad to four wins in the event, tied for the second-highest figure among the nine nations competing for the first time.

One of the first things that head coach Dylan Sheridan did when the team arrived on campus in the fall was to get the players involved in the community. The Vikings spent multiple days in the fall working with the Habitat for Humanity Organization. The team also helped at a St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer and gave a clinic to Ohio City Lacrosse immediately after its fall exhibition.

Head coach Dylan Sheridan did not shy away from anyone in putting together his inaugural schedule. Cleveland State was scheduled to face seven teams that were ranked in the preseason USILA poll in its 15 regular-season games. All seven of those games will occur away from home. No startup program within the past decade has played more than five top-20 teams in its inaugural season, based on the final RPI rankings. CSU will face three programs that have won a national title in the past six years. The Vikings have a five-game road trip that begins in March in which every team they face received preseason votes nationally.

Four Cleveland State players will be returning to their home state this weekend. Isaac Atencio, Caleb Espinoza, Carter Jensen and Gage Johnson all hail from the Colorado Springs area. Three of the four have started this year for the Vikings.

Tristen Copeland showcased his offensive potential in last weekend's Viking victories. He scored four goals in each game and tops the team in goals (10) and points (12). Copeland is also second on the squad in GB (9).

Through the first four games, the Vikings have accrued 9:30 of penalties, a full six minutes fewer than their opponents. Cleveland State has had fewer penalty minutes than its opponent in every game thus far.

Seven different Vikings found the back of the net in the season opener against Michigan. None of the 13 Division I startups within the past decade had more than seven distinct goal-scorers in its inaugural game. Richmond was the only one to match CSU's total.

Cleveland State has scored 29 of its 39 goals in the first half of its games. The Vikings have scored more goals in the first half, as opposed to the second half, in each of their past three games.

The University announced that lacrosse would be added to the intercollegiate athletics program March 30, 2015. It was 677 days from that announcement to the program's first regular-season game.

With the addition of Cleveland State, the number of Division I men's lacrosse teams in Ohio doubled from one to two with the Vikings joining Ohio State. Cleveland State will face off with the Buckeyes in a Battle of Ohio March 11.

While the NCAA men's lacrosse ranks have grown rapidly in recent years, Cleveland State is the only addition to the club this season. The Vikings are the 71st institution currently sponsoring men's lacrosse at the Division I level. In three of the past four years, more than one program was playing its inaugural DI season.

The 10 players in the starting lineup for Cleveland State's first two games of the season went to high school in eight states, ranging from upstate New York to Las Vegas to North Carolina to the Seattle area.