OFF AND RUNNING
With a win earlier this week under its belt, the Cleveland State University lacrosse team is set to host a former national champion for the first time in program history in front of a sold-out crowd.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
Duke entered the season as the No. 1 team by multiple outlets. The Blue Devils are 6-1 entering the weekend and play Towson Saturday. Duke owns three wins over ranked foes, including two that are still in the top 10. Four Blue Devils returned after earning All-America honors in 2017. Justin Guterding owns 46 points entering the weekend while Danny Fowler has a .565 save mark. Cade Van Raaphorst leads the defense and has 17 GB and 10 CT.
RUNNING AWAY FROM LEOPARDS
The Vikings led wire-to-wire in a 12-6 win over Lafayette last time out, 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.
Freshman Michael Wilson has made an impression over the first half of the season. He leads the team in goals (11) and points (17) and has posted a point in each of the first eight games, scoring in seven of them. Wilson has three multi-goal outings in the past five games and has combined for seven points in the past two games. He is shooting 42.3% in 2018, among the top 10 marks by a DI rookie.
STEPHEN STOPPING SHOTS
Stephen Russo had perhaps his best effort to date in the cage last time out in his fourth start. One game after posting a season-high 14 saves, Russo saved 11 of the 17 shots on goal in the win over Lafayette. It was the third time in four games he hit double digits in stops while saving more than half of the shots on goal. Russo has a .534 save mark in the past five games.
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 opponent. After scoring once at Canisius, Menendez posted another hat trick in the win over Lafayette. He owns eight goals in the past four games on just 13 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 17th thus far in 2018 according to figures on Analytics Lacrosse. Over 40% of CSU's opponents' possessions have ended in turnovers in 2018. CSU's foes are averaging 16.63 turnovers per game compared to the DI median of 13.43.
After moving into the starting lineup midway through the season, Tristen Hanna scored the first two goals of his career last time out. He added an assist as well.
FORCING FAILED CLEARS
In its game at Denver Feb. 25, the Vikings held the Pioneers to a 14-for-20 mark on clearing attempts. Denver's 70% clearing mark in that contest is its lowest in its past 34 games overall and its lowest in a home contest since 2009.
COMPOSED IN CLEVELAND
Over the first 22 games it has played, Cleveland State has accrued 18.5 fewer minutes in penalty time than its opponents. The Vikings have fewer penalty minutes than their opponent in 15 of 22 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.
DEFENSE TO OFFENSE
After primarily serving as a defender last season, Zach Whitenack is playing as a LSM this season. Whitenack showcased his offensive abilities in CSU's opening two games, scoring four goals on five shots. Whitenack did not have a point in 2017. He scored two goals off of faceoff wins and two came immediately following successful CSU clears.
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 14 shots that have hit iron compared to nine by their opponents.
ONE AND DONE
In three of its past six games, the Cleveland State defense has shut out an opponent for a quarter and allowed two or fewer goals in a half. In the second half against Mercer and the first half at Air Force, the Vikings only allowed one goal. The Bears scored on just one of 16 second-half possessions. Cleveland State forced Mercer into 10 turnovers, six of which were directly caused by CSU while another was a shot clock violation. The Vikings made two saves, backed up two shots that went out of bounds and collected a ground ball after blocking a shot. On Air Force's 14 first-half possessions, CSU forced the Falcons into eight turnovers, made three saves and collected possession after two wide shots.
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 14 of his last 16 games entering Sunday.