DENVER, Colo. – Sophomore Nate Menendez had a hat trick but it was not enough as the Cleveland State University lacrosse team could not keep up with No. 4/5 Denver and dropped a 17-8 decision Sunday at a cold but clear Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.
Menendez entered the game with three career goals but doubled that total with a career day against the Pioneers. He scored a trio of goals on three shots while adding two ground balls. It was the first ever hat trick by a Viking against a nationally ranked team.
Despite the loss, the Vikings forced the perennial powerhouse into a couple of their worst performances in years in two statistical categories.
Cleveland State forced Denver into 20 turnovers, its most in any game since March 2012. The Vikings committed six fewer turnovers than the Pioneers, the fifth consecutive game in which CSU had fewer turnovers than its opponent.
The Vikings also had a better clear percentage than the Pioneers, holding Denver to a 70% clearing mark. Denver's clear percentage was its worst in its past 31 games and its lowest mark in a home contest since 2009.
Freshman Michael Wilson scored twice for the Vikings, continuing the fast start to his collegiate career, as he now owns team-leading marks in goals (8) and points (9). He has scored in five of the first six games, with three multi-goal outings.
Sophomore Tristen Copeland tied for game high honors with three assists. It marked the first multi-assist game for Copeland against a Division I opponent.
Sophomore Isaac Atencio had a huge game defensively in his home state, collecting a career-high six ground balls and tallying a career-best three caused turnovers.
Freshman Stephen Russo made a save on Denver's first shot, and the Vikings forced the Pioneers into turnovers on their following three possessions before Denver could take the lead.
Denver added three goals in less than a minute near the midpoint of the quarter and another late in the period.
Early in the second quarter, Denver was granted a 6-on-4 advantage with two concurrent penalties. However, the Vikings killed off the double man-up chance without allowing a goal.
However, the Pioneers continued to extend their lead in the second quarter, adding on especially in the second half of the second quarter.
Cleveland State kept fighting in the third quarter and was rewarded by outscoring the Pioneers, 5-1, in the frame, with Copeland assisting on three of the goals.
The teams combined for five goals in the final period to set the final margin.
Sophomores Jared Stepka and Danny Tesler each scored his second goal of the season with the former adding three ground balls and the latter grabbing four. Sophomore Stephen Masi scored his first goal of the season.
Senior Parese Williams had an assist, his third in two games, and caused a turnover. Freshman Tristen Hanna posted his first collegiate point with an assist.
Cleveland State had a goal within 25 seconds of a faceoff for the eighth consecutive game.
Denver had a modest 25-17 advantage in shots on goal, which does not even take into account the fact that the Vikings had three shots hit the post or crossbar.
Cleveland State will finish off a stretch of four straight road games next weekend with a matchup at Canisius.