Cleveland State Stuns SoCon Favorite Air Force

Cleveland State Stuns SoCon Favorite Air Force

USAFA, Colo. - The Cleveland State University lacrosse team garnered its first road win over a Division I opponent in dramatic fashion Friday evening as the Vikings opened up a lead and held on in the late frantic moments to take down preseason Southern Conference favorite Air Force, 8-7, at the Holaday Athletic Center.

The Vikings had taken a 5-1 lead at the half and led, 8-2, after three quarters. Air Force rallied late, but Cleveland State, after losing a one-goal game 10 days ago, remained composed to see out its first-ever one-goal victory.

Freshman Stephen Russo made 12 saves in his first collegiate start in the cage, including nine in the second half. He also had a team-best four ground balls.

Sophomores Tristen Copeland and Nick Wendel each scored twice while senior Parese Williams contributed his first two assists in a Viking uniform.

After CSU kept the Falcons off the board on their first two possessions, the Vikings struck first. Sophomore Noah Gleeson opened the scoring with his first of the season while rookie Casey Platenick picked up his first collegiate point with the helper.

The Falcons immediately tied the game, but the Viking defense soon clamped down. Cleveland State would hold Air Force scoreless for the following 31 minutes, forcing the Falcons into nine turnovers in that stretch while Russo made five saves.

The Vikings slowly built a lead in the second quarter, using four different goal scorers to take a 5-1 lead. Williams assisted on two goals in the frame, both of which came immediately following successful clears.

Wendel scored a man-up tally early in the third before Air Force was able to get back on the scoreboard again.

However, the Falcons were shut down for the second half of the third quarter while the Vikings added what proved to be two huge insurance goals in the final 30 seconds of the period.

Air Force gave everything it had to a comeback effort, but Cleveland State was able to withstand it.

The Falcons scored five times and pulled within a goal with under four minutes to play. Sophomore Danny Tesler won the game's final faceoff, and CSU forced a failed clear on Air Force's following possession.

The Falcons had the ball with a chance to tie in the final two minutes but could not generate a shot on goal as Cleveland State emerged victorious.

The Vikings had a 27-16 lead in shots over the first three quarters of the game. The contest marked the fourth straight in which CSU had fewer turnovers than its opponent.

Wendel, who has scored in three straight, posted his first multi-goal game of the season and fifth of his career. Copeland posted his second multi-goal effort of 2018 and the sixth of his career.

Sophomore Jack Frickleton and Nate Menendez and freshman Matt Manfredi also scored for Cleveland State. Frickleton has now scored in three straight, while the goal was the first of the season for Menendez and the first as a collegian for Manfredi.

Freshman Derek Radke added his team-leading sixth assist and now has points in four consecutive games.

Friday's contest marked the second in the last three games in which the Vikings held a team to a single goal in an entire half.

Cleveland State was credited with a perfect 24-for-24 mark on clears.

Air Force had won eight of its last nine home games against teams from outside the state of Colorado, those that are not accustomed to the mile high air.

The Vikings will remain out west to face consensus top-five opponent Denver Sunday, Feb. 25.