Photo courtesy of Tony Carter
Cleveland State (2-7) at Penn State (5-3)
Saturday, March 24 | 1:00 p.m.
University Park, Pa. | Penn State Lacrosse Field
OFF AND RUNNING
After limiting Duke's high-octane offense last time out in a loss, the Cleveland State University lacrosse team is set to face another elite offense as it heads to Penn State, its third Big Ten foe of the season.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
Penn State sits at 5-3 and is receiving votes nationally. PSU has won three of four while its three losses have come by a combined six goals, with one being an overtime setback. The Nittany Lions have one of the top faceoff men in the country in Gerard Arceri, who is winning them at a 71.6% clip. Mac O'Keefe tops the team in points (28) and goals (21) while Chris Sabia, a 2017 All-American, leads the defense with 14 caused turnovers.
STEPHEN STOPPING SHOTS, PART I
Stephen Russo was named to USILA's Team of the Week Tuesday, the first Viking to earn the honor. In two games last week, Russo posted a .651 save percentage and a 7.50 GAA. He posted 11 saves in a 12-6 win over Lafayette and 17 saves vs. No. 3 Duke. His 17 saves against Duke are the most against the Blue Devils this season while Duke was held to a season-low tying nine goals.
Freshman Michael Wilson has made an impression over the first half of 2018. He leads the team in goals (13) and points (19) and has posted a point in each of the first nine games, scoring in eight. Wilson has four multi-goal outings in the past six games, including against nationally ranked Denver and Duke, and has combined for nine points in the past three games. He is shooting 46.4% in 2018, among the top 30 marks in DI and the fourth highest by a freshman.
DEFENDING DANGEROUS DUKE
Cleveland State put forth perhaps the best defensive effort against Duke's high-powered offense this season. The Blue Devils are averaging 13.9 goals/game and shooting over 38%. However, CSU held Duke to a .231 shooting mark, its lowest in its past 27 regular-season games. The Vikings' .654 save mark in the game was the best by a Duke opponent in the Blue Devils' past 36 games overall.
RUNNING AWAY FROM LEOPARDS
The Vikings led wire-to-wire in a 12-6 win over Lafayette March 13, outscoring the Leopards, 5-0, in the fourth quarter. On the Leopards' 11 offensive possessions in the final frame, CSU forced eight turnovers while freshman Stephen Russo made three saves.
NATE THE GREAT
Nate Menendez entered the Colorado trip with two goals in 14 collegiate games. After scoring once at Air Force, he doubled his career total with a hat trick at Denver. His three goals against the Pioneers made him the first Viking to have a hat trick against a nationally ranked foe. After scoring one at Canisius, Menendez posted another hat trick in the win over Lafayette. He owns eight goals in the past five games on just 14 shots.
UPPING THE PRESSURE
Cleveland State has seen a marked improvement from last year in forcing its opponents into turnovers. The Vikings were 66th in DI last season in defensive turnover percentage and sit at 27th thus far in 2018. Over 40% of CSU's opponents' possessions have ended in turnovers in 2018. CSU's foes are averaging 16.0 turnovers per game compared to the DI median of 13.14.
After moving into the starting lineup midway through the season, Tristen Hanna scored the first two goals of his career against Lafayette and also added an assist.
COMPOSED IN CLEVELAND
Over the first 23 games it has played, Cleveland State has accrued 21 fewer minutes in penalty time than its opponents. The Vikings have fewer penalty minutes than their opponent in 16 of 23 games played.
Cleveland State outshot Mercer, 48-34, in its Feb. 13 home game. That was part of a larger trend that saw CSU have statistical advantages in ground balls, faceoffs and caused turnovers. The Vikings' 48 shots are their highest figure thus far against a DI opponent.
GOALIE'S BEST FRIEND
Cleveland State had an astounding seven shots hit off the post or crossbar in its overtime loss to Mercer. Those seven shots were taken by seven players. On the season, the Vikings have taken 16 shots that have hit iron compared to 10 by their opponents.
LAST WE MET
Playing at No. 1 Penn State, Cleveland State competed well in dropping a 15-8 contest. CSU outshot the Nittany Lions in the first half but entered the break trailing by three. Caleb Espinoza made 17 saves while Chase Baker, Jack Frickleton and Noah Gleeson all scored twice. Nick Wendel added a goal and an assist.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH WENDEL
After notching three points in the first two games of 2017, Nick Wendel suffered an injury and did not tally a point in the next four. Wendel ended last season on an eight-game point streak, the longest by a Viking in 2017. He had 13 goals in that span, including hat tricks against Canisius and Detroit Mercy. He has points in 15 of his last 17 games entering Saturday and has scored in six of his last seven.