By Ben Hercik, Sports Editor
The Cleveland State University lacrosse team has been on a run where they have gone 4-3, and improved their record to 4-6 on the season. After two very close losses to nationally ranked Ohio State University and the University of Michigan, the Vikings found their way into the win column with a victory over Bellarmine University, with a score of 17-8.
Leading the way was sophomore Tristan Hanna, who found the back of the net four times that game. Freshman teammate Adam Clark also found success in the scoring category, scoring three goals.
The team didn’t have much time to celebrate this win, as they traveled to Colorado to participate in the Face Off Classic. They would fall to to both Air Force University, 11-8, and the then number eight team in the nation Denver University, 16-8. Much like the games against Ohio State and Michigan, the Vikings tried to mount a late comeback against Air Force, but fell short. In the game against Denver, the Vikings were only behind 4-3 at halftime, when Denver started to pull away.
After those two losses, the Vikings were able to turn it around and win three straight games over Mercer University, Marquette University and Lafayette University. One of the big takeaways from that three game stretch was the play in goal by both sophomore Caleb Espinoza and sophomore Stephen Russo. The pair did not allow more than 10 goals in any of the three games. In both the games against Mercer and Marquette, Espinoza did not allow either team to score a goal in the second period.
In each of the three game, a different aspect of the team stood out. In the 12-8 win against Mercer, Hanna had three goals, which was his fourth straight game where he scored a hat trick. The defense was able to keep the score low and prevent Marquette from making a comeback while the offense was able to do just enough to win 7-5. In the game against Lafayette, the complete opposite was the case, as the team needed the defense to step up to win the game. The defense was able to keep the score close, while the offense was able to make a comeback to win. The Vikings were down 3-0 after the first period, and trailed 8-5 heading into the fourth and final period. In the fourth, the defense only allowed one goal, while the offense exploded to score five goals of their own. The Vikings scored two goals in the final two minutes of the game. Sophomore Michael Wilson scored the game tying goal and junior teammate Jack Frickleton scored the go-ahead for good to make the score 10-9 in favor of the Vikings.
The team rode this momentum into back to back games against ranked opponents, first up was the then ranked number 15 team in the country, North Carolina University. The Vikings were able to keep it close in the first period, only trailing by a score of 4-3, and were able to tie the game at four early in the second thanks to a goal by junior Noah Gleeson. North Carolina then went on to score 4 strate goals to pull away and eventually win by a score of 15-9.
After playing the past six games on the road, the Vikings returned to their home confines of Krenzler Field, but a big challenge was waiting for them there. Their opponent was the number one team in the nation, Penn State University. While the Vikings never lead in the game, they were able to keep the score close with the final score being 15-11. This was the second closest win for Penn State this season. The Vikings were able to keep it close thanks to the play of Hanna and junior Nick Wendel, who both scored hat tricks, Wendel’s first of the season and Hanna’s fifth on the season. Another stand out performance was from freshman Andrew Hamilton, who won 13 out of the 22 faceoffs against preseason all-american Gerard Arceri.
The Vikings close out the season with four of their final five games at home, with the only road game being against the University of Utah. The game against Utah is important because both teams are tied at the top of the Division one Independents conference, with a 4-6 record. If the Vikings want to end the season on a high note, they will need players like Hanna, Wilson, sophomore Jason Sullivan and Wendel who lead the team in goals scored. Hanna has scored 17 times this season, while both Sullivan and Wilson have scored 11 goals and Wendel is right behind them with eight.