OFF AND RUNNING
After getting back in the win column at home last weekend, the Cleveland State University lacrosse team hits the road for the final time in its inaugural season. The Vikings take on Sacred Heart Saturday afternoon in the Pioneers' final non-conference game.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
Sacred Heart is having one of its best seasons in recent history under third-year coach John Basti. The Pioneers' seven wins, with two games remaining, are their most in a campaign since 2008. SHU leads DI in caused turnovers/game, averaging over 10 per contest. Senior Ryan O'Donoghue leads that effort with 35. Joe Saggese (26g, 17a), Bryce Jurk (27g, 14a) and Max Tuttle (24g 11a) lead an offense that has scored 12+ in three of its last four games.
CAN YOU ASSIST ME?
Tristen Copeland's knack of offensive outbursts hit a high point in last weekend's win. The attackman posted seven points, including five assists, both marks which are season highs by any Viking. It was the second time in the past four games that Copeland had at least four assists in a game. He now leads the team in assists (13).
Caleb Espinoza has been racking up saves in Cleveland State's recent games. One game after notching 17 stops at Penn State, Espinoza collected 16 at Virginia in the Vikings' last road game. He has hit double figures in stops in each of the past eight contests. He is among the top 10 in DI in total saves (145) and leads all rookies in that category. Espinoza would lead DI in saves per game (13.13) if the NCAA only counted CSU's games against DI opponents.
NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN
After going scoreless with one point over the first eight games, Chase Baker started to find his offensive rhythm in mid-March. Baker excelled last weekend by scoring five goals, a season high for any Viking. He has now scored in four straight games. Baker scored twice at Penn State while earning his first start March 25.
No matter which metric you use, Cleveland State has faced one of the toughest schedules in D1 this season. The NCAA ranks CSU's slate as the fourth toughest so far with its opponents a combined 61-30. Meanwhile, using analytic-based statistics, Patrick McEwen of Inside Lacrosse has CSU with the third-hardest schedule.
TOUGH TESTS FOR DEFENSE
When it played at Virginia to open April, Cleveland State was facing one of the top offenses in Division I. That was nothing new for the Vikings. Cleveland State has faced five top-15 offenses in terms of goals per game. On a per-possession basis, the Vikings have faced four of the top 11 offenses nationally. Every DI team the Vikings have faced this season is above average nationally in goals per game.
#1 x 2
When Cleveland State faced off at Penn State to close the month of March, it marked the second time in a one-month span that the Vikings played the top-ranked team in the USILA poll. The 16 most recent programs making their NCAA lacrosse debut in Division I combined to play the No. 1 ranked team just a single time.
The Vikings have killed off 18 of the past 26 EMO chances for their opponent over the past nine games. Cleveland State had killed off nine consecutive EMO chances for its opponent at one point, a stretch that ended in the fourth quarter at Penn State.
THE MAN ON MAN UP
Man-up opportunities are often a great chance to score goals, but Jack Frickleton has been especially dangerous for CSU's man-up unit thus far. He has five man-up tallies, two off the national lead and tied for the most by a freshman in Division I. He also has three assists during EMO chances this year.
MAN DOWN DOWN
On four occasions in the past five games, Cleveland State has been faced with the unenviable task of playing down two men due to concurrent penalties. However, three of the four times the Vikings were able to successfully kill off the 4-on-6 without allowing a goal.
COMPOSED IN CLEVELAND
Through the first 12 games, the Vikings have accrued 31:30 in penalties, over 11 minutes fewer than their opponents. Cleveland State has had fewer penalty minutes than its opponent in nine games thus far.
FLIPPING THE SCRIPT
Through seven games, Cleveland State scored 39 of 54 goals in the first half. However, the Vikings have flipped that narrative on its head recently, as CSU has scored 30 of 50 goals in the second half over the past five games.
FROM HERE AND EVERYWHERE
The 10 players in the starting lineup for Cleveland State's first two games went to high school in eight states, ranging from upstate New York to Las Vegas to North Carolina to the Seattle area. The Vikings have started players from eight different states in four games overall.
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 nine of the team's first 12 games. Lewis is also the only Viking to contribute multiple points in 10 or more contests. He owns eight goals and six assists in the past six games, tops the team with 16 goals and is tied for the team lead with 26 points.
ANY GIVEN SATURDAY
With Cleveland State in the midst of the closing stretch, four Vikings have started every game thus far. Tristen Copeland has started every game on attack while Caleb Espinoza has been between the pipes every game. Noah Gleeson and Stephen Masi have started every game either on attack or in the midfield.
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 has 10 goals and 13 points in six games since the beginning of March, including the first two hat tricks of his career.
HOLDING ON TO IT
Cleveland State only had nine turnovers last time out, a new season low. That mark surpassed the previous low of 12 that CSU had set March 25 at Penn State.
After missing the better part of three games with an injury, midfielder Danny Tesler has returned to lead the Vikings in faceoff wins (63) and ground balls (49). He has scored nine goals while shooting at nearly a 35% clip. Tesler has points in nine of the 10 games he's played and is among the top 30 nationally in ground balls per game.
One aspect of the game that has seen a significant improvement for Cleveland State is its ability to clear. In their first seven games, the Vikings cleared 91-of-121 chances (.752). In its past five games, Cleveland State has cleared 81-of-93 opportunities (.871). The Vikings set a new season best last time out by going 17-for-18 on the clear.
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 four DI goaltenders have made more than 19 saves in a game this season.
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.
EIGHT STAIGHT BY EIGHT
In last weekend's win, Cleveland State scored eight consecutive goals spanning halftime in 18:11. It was the longest run of consecutive goals by the Vikings this season. Eight different Vikings had at least one point in the run, with Tristen Copeland posting four assists.
LONG POLE OFFENSE
When Gage Johnson posted an assist in last week's win, he became the fourth Viking long-pole player to net a point this season. Bobby Kidd III and Brandon Ruditz both have two points while Skylar Jimenez owns an assist as well.
EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT
Cleveland State has seen a marked progression on extra-man opportunities as the season has gone on. After starting 1-for-13 with an advantage, the Vikings have converted 16 of their last 37 chances with an extra man.
Cleveland State had been scheduled to play at nationally ranked Hofstra and Fairfield on back-to-back days over Spring Break. However, those contests were cancelled due to weather in the northeast U.S. With the Vikings facing the prospect of going two weeks without playing, head coach Dylan Sheridan added a contest at Wittenberg.
THREE TIMES THREE IN THIRD
In its win over Wittenberg March 16, Cleveland State scored half of its goals, nine of the 18, in the third quarter. The Viking scored five goals in the final 5:07 of the frame to tally a season best for goals in a quarter. The nine goals were scored by eight different Vikings.
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 of seven.
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 faced off with the Buckeyes in the inaugural Battle of Ohio March 11.
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.