CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Cleveland State University lacrosse team never trailed as it built a sizeable lead and held on down the stretch to claim an 11-9 win over Detroit Mercy in its season finale Wednesday evening inside Krenzler Dome.
With the win, the Vikings finished the campaign with an 8-7 mark, a winning record for the third-year program. Wednesday's historic win came nearly two years to the day after another nighttime Krenzler Field win over Detroit Mercy in which the Vikings never trailed—that 2017 victory was the program's first against a Division I opponent.
Cleveland State had advantages in nearly every statistical category, including shots, shots on goal, ground balls, faceoffs won and clearing percentage while also having fewer turnovers.
CSU scooped up 49 ground balls, a new high for the program, with 19 Vikings collecting at least one. The Vikings also held Detroit to just 61.5% on clearing attempts (16-for-26), the sixth straight game in which CSU's opponent was below 71%.
Sophomore Michael Wilson led the way offensively with six points on three goals and three assists. He collected hat tricks in back-to-back games for the first time in his career and tallied at least three points in nine of his final 10 games.
Junior Tristen Copeland continued his strong finish to the season, posting two goals and two assists, and extended his point streak to a career-best six games. He tallied back-to-back four-point games to close the year after not hitting that mark in the first 13 games of the campaign.
Junior Danny Tesler won 10-of-12 faceoffs in the contest and added four ground balls to help the Vikings win possession. Sophomore Stephen Russo made 10 saves in the cage, his third straight contest in double figures, and added a trio of ground balls and a caused turnover.
Each goaltender made a save on both teams' opening two possessions. The Vikings had the added difficulty of killing off a UDM man-up chance just over two minutes into the contest, but Russo and company were up to the task.
Copeland opened the scoring with a feed from Wilson with six-and-a-half minutes gone in the game.
Detroit would tie the game two possessions later after a failed CSU clear.
Freshman Nick Polydoras then helped give the Vikings the lead for good. He scored in transition, off a feed from junior LSM Zach Whitenack, after a failed clear. Polydoras then played distributor, finding Wilson just over a minute later.
The Titans would get a man-up tally in the final minute of the quarter to get back within one.
During the first half of the second quarter, the Vikings scored twice while holding the Titans off the board. After a failed Titan clear, Copeland found classmate Noah Gleeson streaking downhill toward goal, and the latter deposited it into the net. Whitenack then scored in transition with a feed from Wilson.
After a UDM goal made it 5-3, Wilson and Copeland would post unassisted tallies to give the hosts a four-goal lead at the half.
Cleveland State scored twice within the first two minutes of the second half, with Copeland feeding Whitenack and Wilson finding Tristan Hanna.
Detroit Mercy would then fight its way back into the game by scoring the next four goals, the final one of which was a man-up tally, to make it an 9-7 game.
With the Vikings looking for momentum, junior Stephen Masi came through with an unassisted strike, just his second goal of the season, rolling around from below goal line extended.
Wilson would put CSU back up by four with a strike in the opening two minutes of the final period.
The Titans were able to pull within 11-9 with just under six minutes left but could get no closer, as they did not register another shot on goal.
Cleveland State won the ensuing faceoff and would force failed clears the next two times the Titans touched the ball.
Junior Brandon Ruditz caused a turnover in the defensive end with just over a minute left to seal the deal as the following good clear by CSU allowed the hosts to celebrate.
Whitenack tied his career high of three points that he set in the last game at Utah and had his third multi-goal game this month. He had two caused turnovers and a ground ball.
Polydoras had five multi-point efforts in his last nine games and led CSU rookies in points (19) and goals (14).
Wilson had 5+ points five times in his final nine games and had seven games this season with at least three assists. In doing so, he became the first Viking to surpass 50 points in a season, finishing with 53.
Hanna's goal pushed his final total to a team-leading 26.
Ruditz started every game for the second straight season and has played in all 43 games over the first three seasons. Hanna and redshirt sophomore Quinn Lemke also started every game this season.
Tesler and Andrew Hamilton, the Vikings' primary two at the faceoff 'X', both finished the season winning over 60% of their attempts.
Cleveland State held opponents to just 70.7% on their clearing attempts this season. The Vikings ranked second in Division I in that stat entering the week.
After having one DI win in their first season, the Vikings had four last season before registering eight in 2019. CSU faced five teams currently in the top 20 of the RPI this season, including top-ranked Penn State. In its third year of existence, Cleveland State had no true seniors on its roster in 2019.