CLEVELAND, Ohio – Junior Vlad Jandric's hat trick led the Cleveland State University men's soccer team to a 3-1 win over first-place UIC on a sunny and cool Saturday evening at Krenzler Field.
Jandric's hat trick was the first by a Viking since Admir Suljevic achieved the feat during the 2013 campaign.
The win by Cleveland State ended a 12-match unbeaten run by the Flames against Horizon League opposition. UIC entered the match among the top 20 in Division I in RPI and had outscored its opposition by 11 goals in in three League matches to date.
Nevertheless, for the sixth straight match, the Vikings outshot their opponent, a run that includes all four League fixtures.
Head coach Kirk Harwat made four changes to the starting XI from last time out at Wright State. Sophomore Dan Manolache and freshman Ryan Kolonick were reinserted on the back line while redshirt freshman Alex Gyerman was back between the posts. However, the most noteworthy inclusion was freshman Tommy Paltani. Paltani, who had played only 94 minutes on the season and was making his first collegiate start, acquitted himself well in a defensive midfield role.
Coming off one of the more disappointing efforts of the season, the Vikings wasted no time in rebounding by getting on the front foot early. Junior Thomas Bielanski started a sequence in the seventh minute by dispossessing a Flames player just across the midline. Jandric picked up the ball and dribbled to the edge of the area before ripping a shot inside the far post.
It didn't take long for CSU, or Jandric, to add to their tally. Bielanski won the ball again to start the sequence before playing senior Noah Pio on the left flank. Pio played a cross that eventually found its way to sophomore Ben Hryszko. Hryszko's shot was blocked, but Jandric picked up the loose ball and slotted a shot to the right of the keeper.
Cleveland State nearly got a third goal with a couple of great looks five minutes later. Junior Gabriel Pewu's cross was deflected back to him, and his shot from close range was just barely kept out with a nice save. On the ensuing corner, Hryszko's diving header was cleared off the line by a Flames defender.
That was the final great look for either team in the first half. The Vikings took the first nine shots of the match with Gyerman only being called into action once in the opening 45 minutes, for a comfortable save.
With UIC looking to cut into its deficit, it didn't take long for the Vikings to make the road back even more challenging. Sophomore Thomas M'Barek played a long ball out of the back to Pio. Pio had the ball deflect off a Flames player where Jandric picked it up near the edge of the box. His shot from the right side got past the diving keeper and inside the far left post.
UIC had its best chance to that point about 68 minutes in when a free kick from the right flank caused some chaos in the box. Gyerman made a point-blank stop before the CSU defense cleared a shot near the goal line away from danger.
Gyerman made a good save in the 82nd minute, diving to his left to keep out a free kick while holding on to the ball to prevent a rebound.
UIC would break the shutout bid in the 84th minute, but it would prove to be just a consolation prize as the Vikings dealt with three corner kicks in the final three minutes.
Saturday was only the second time this season that UIC was outshot and its 15 shots allowed was also the second-highest total it has given up. The only other match to top those figures was a fixture when the Flames were reduced to 10 men only five minutes into the contest.
Gyerman made four saves to pick up his first collegiate win. Jandric's goals were his first three of the season and give him eight in his career.
The win was CSU's 24th over UIC, its most over any opponent.
Cleveland State will begin a three-game non-conference road swing this Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Duquesne.