OFF AND RUNNING
The Cleveland State University lacrosse team begins a grueling five-game road trip, and a stretch of three games in five days, by traveling down I-71 to face Ohio State. The battle between the only two Division I teams in the state takes place Saturday at 1:00 p.m.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
Ohio State is one of eight remaining unbeatens in Division I entering the weekend, but one of only three with at least six wins. The Buckeyes are off to their best start since their 1966 team went undefeated. Senior Jake Withers was named the 2016 Big Ten Specialist of the Year. He has won over 65% of his faceoffs this year, ranking seventh nationally, and leads the team with 44 GB. Senior Eric Fannell, a Big Ten Preseason Honoree, leads the team with 19 points, 16 of which have come within the past three games.
Jake Lewis has served as not only the Vikings' top offensive weapon thus far this season, but also the team's most consistent performer. He is the only Viking to score in six of the team's first seven games. Lewis is also the only Viking to contribute multiple points in six or more contests. He set season bests in assists (3) and points (5) last time out and tops the team in both categories.
EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT
Cleveland State has seen a marked progression on extra-man opportunities in the early portion of the season. After starting 1-for-13 with an advantage, the Vikings have converted seven of their last 13 chances with an extra man.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH WENDEL
After scoring the first goal in program history and notching three points in the first two games, midfielder Nick Wendel suffered an injury and did not tally a point in the next four games. Wendel had a fine return to form this past weekend as he contributed season highs in goals (3) and points (4) against Canisius.
GETTING AFTER GB'S
Cleveland State tied its season high with 36 ground balls last time out even though it only won 12 faceoffs. Five Vikings set season highs in ground balls, including Jake Lewis (5), Isaac Atencio (4) and Bobby Kidd III (4). The Vikings pulled off the feat in spite of the fact that their team leader in ground balls, Danny Tesler, did not play due to injury.
ON THE OFFENSIVE
Tristen Copeland showcased his offensive potential during the Sixth City Showdown. He scored four goals in each game and is tied for the team lead in goals (10). He is second on CSU in points (13) and third in GB (12).
COMPOSED IN CLEVELAND
Through the first seven games, the Vikings have accrued 14:30 in penalties, over eight minutes fewer than their opponents. Cleveland State has had fewer penalty minutes than its opponent in all but one 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 39 of its 54 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 six 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.
Playing fewer than 60 miles from where he went to high school, Caleb Espinoza had a performance to remember in Cleveland State's contest at No. 1 Denver, as the rookie made 19 saves. Only one DI goaltender has made more than 19 saves in a game this season.
ONE AND ONLY
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.
FROM HERE AND EVERYWHERE
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.
BACK IT UP
With CSU playing both next Tuesday and Wednesday, it will be the third times this season that the Vikings play two games in under 24 hours. All other Division I startups within the past decade played back-to-back days a combined two times in their inaugural seasons.
THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS
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.
NOT THE ONLY 'FIRST'
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.
CAPTAINING THIS SHIP
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.
NOT BRAND NEW TO HIM
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 are beginning a five-game road trip in which every team they face received preseason votes nationally.