CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland State University lacrosse team ended its inaugural season on the highest of notes, as the Vikings collected their first-ever win over a Division I opponent with a 13-6 triumph over Detroit Mercy Saturday evening at a chilly Krenzler Field.
The Vikings scored five times in the game's opening eight minutes and led by at least three goals for the final 53 minutes of the contest. CSU did not allow Detroit Mercy to score back-to-back goals all evening. Cleveland State topped a Titan squad that will be competing in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament next weekend.
"These guys can now walk away feeling like the hard work and some of the tough moments we've gone through, given our strength of schedule, was worth it," head coach Dylan Sheridan said. "This win is just a reward for all that hard work. I give credit to the guys for being so resilient and continuing to fight all the way through to the last game and credit to my assistant coaches for having them prepared even when the odds are not in your favor. I think the staff did a great job of getting them ready. I'm very proud of them."
Cleveland State had advantages in a variety of statistical categories including shots, shots on goal, ground balls, faceoff wins and saves.
Caleb Espinoza finished his noteworthy rookie season with another strong effort in the cage, as he stopped 13 of 19 shots on goal and also was credited with four ground balls. He was aided by strong work from starting defensemen Isaac Atencio, Quinn Lemke and Brandon Ruditz.
The Cleveland State offense was well-rounded as six Vikings had multiple points and four contributed a trio of points.
Both Stephen Masi and Nick Wendel collected hat tricks to close their rookie seasons. It was the second straight hat trick for Masi and his fourth multi-goal game while Wendel notched his third hat trick of the campaign and sixth multi-point game.
Espinoza saved a Detroit shot on the Titans' first possession to get CSU started on the right foot. After a good clear, the Vikings would take the lead when Noah Gleeson, stationed behind the net, found Chase Baker on the left wing. Baker took a couple steps to his right and fired into the high right corner.
Danny Tesler won the ensuing faceoff heading toward the cage and doubled the Viking advantage only six seconds after the game's first goal.
A Detroit goal would do little to halt the Cleveland State momentum. After the Titans' first goal, Tesler won each of the next three faceoffs, and the Vikings scored within 70 seconds of each faceoff win.
Tommy Joyce, operating near a top corner of the box, beat his man to the right and then cut back left just before reaching the crease to shoot low. After winning the next faceoff, Tesler found Jared Stepka near the top of the box. The defensive midfielder's shot from long range was buried in the top right corner, as he scored for the first time as a collegian. CSU's final goal of the quarter came when Gleeson's pass from below goal-line-extended found an open Masi, who stepped into his shot and found the twine.
Neither team scored over the next 13 minutes before Detroit got its second strike of the night. That would be the last goal for the Titans of the first half.
Wendel, Frickleton and Joyce scored over the remainder of the quarter to extend the Viking lead to six at the half. Wendel beat his man to the right, cutting laterally across the field before Frickleton used a screen to create space as he cut from the goalie's left to the center of the field. Joyce's second goal was similar to his first but came on the opposite side of the box and did not require a cutback at the last moment.
Cleveland State scored the first goal of the second half and then answered each time Detroit would find the net.
Frickleton found an open Wendel, who fired home straightaway, for the first goal of the third quarter. After a Titan tally, Gideon Brockenbrough beat his man to the right and shot low to close the third-quarter scoring.
After a Detroit goal began the fourth quarter scoring, Gleeson once again was operating behind the cage and found an open Masi for a CSU goal. Masi completed his hat trick fewer than five minutes later when Frickleton found him on a back-door cut. Wendel closed the scoring by completing his hat trick late in the contest.
Espinoza posted double-figure saves in each of the final 10 games of the season. Atencio and Ruditz each caused two turnovers while the latter had three ground balls.
Tesler won 14 of 22 faceoffs and finished with a season best 12 ground balls. He notched his fourth multi-point performance in the win as well.
Frickleton's eight multi-point game of the season was also his team-leading fourth multi-assist game. Gleeson's third multi-assist game doubled as his seventh multi-point outing.
Wendel posted his fourth multi-goal game Saturday while Baker scored for the fifth time in six games after going scoreless in the first eight games of the season. Wendel finishes the season on a season-best eight-game point streak.
Espinoza, Gleeson and Masi were the only Vikings to start every game in 2017. Cleveland State had fewer penalty minutes than Detroit Mercy, the 10th time this season that the Vikings had fewer penalty minutes than their opponent.
Cleveland State posted five overall wins in its inaugural season. The Vikings played seven games against teams that received votes in the latest USILA poll.
"I'm really excited just to see how the momentum from this win propels us into the summer and next fall when these guys go from being freshmen to sophomores," Sheridan said. "They can take these experiences and grow from them."