What to Expect From Cleveland State in Their First Year in The ASUN?

(Photo Courtesy of Cleveland State Athletics)

Andy German was elevated to the role of full-time head coach ahead of the 2020 season, which saw the Vikings go 2-5 before the season was cut short.

The second year of the German era saw the Vikings go 3-7 against a schedule which pitted them against two teams twice (Bellarmine, VMI) due to scheduling constraints put on many conference last season that left independents like Cleveland State largely out to dry.

While the first two seasons of the German era have been both weird and haven’t yielded tremendous results in the win column, year three under Andy German marks a new era for Cleveland State lacrosse as they join a conference for the first time in the program’s six-year history. The Vikings join the Atlantic Sun (ASUN) alongside Air Force, Bellarmine, Detroit Mercy, Robert Morris and Utah.

Against their new conference foes, the Vikings have put up a 5-6 record over the past three seasons and all-time record of 7-10, having played each ASUN member at least twice since the Vikings’ inaugural season in 2017.

Entering into this new era, Cleveland State is looking not only to continue to build upon the success it has had over the past five seasons, but take that next step. A step many new programs have been tasked with making over the past decade or so of DI expansion, and one that could possibly lead this program to a postseason trip.

Many view Cleveland State as one of the bottom teams in the conference coming into this first season of ASUN play. However, despite what this team may look like on paper compared to their conference foes, the Vikings have showed an ability to surprise in the past, and with many unknowns surrounding teams in year one of the ASUN, it is likely a conference that could feature some surprise. Maybe, just maybe, Cleveland State can surprise?

The biggest question for this Vikings team lies in between the pipes where Kevin Sobey put on one heck of a performance a season ago, making 115 saves with a 52% save percentage. That included three 17-save performances against Mercer, Bellarmine, and Robert Morris. With Sobey leaving the program over the summer, the Vikings will be anchored by a new goalie this spring.

Junior Colin Willis is the only other goalie that saw any action last season, playing garbage time minutes against Notre Dame. The Vikings also have redshirt junior Gareth Haig on the roster who started all seven games and posted a 41.4% save percentage off 63 saves during the 2020 season.

In addition to the aforementioned loss in cage, the Vikings also have a number of question marks out in front of the cage with the loss of multiple top poles to graduation. Zach Whitenack, Quinn Lemke, and Michael Harris all started a majority of contests last season and were the most productive poles on this defense. All three are gone, leaving open a number of spots up for grabs. Oisin McTigue is also no longer on the roster after being one of the team’s top reserve poles last season.

This defense, especially at close, will be pretty young this spring with nine of 13 defensemen listed on the roster being either a freshman or sophomore. And of the nine players returning at the position, only three, Zachary Galovich, Tanner Cox, and Karson Burkey, saw action in more than two contests. Galovich and Cox saw action in all 10 games last season while Burkey played in just three.

Matt Manfredi returns as one of the top defensive midfielders on this roster. He had 27 ground balls and five caused turnovers and played a significant role on the transition game last season.

On the offensive end of the field things look very similar with fifth-year senior Jason Sullivan (6G/11A) and junior Brendan Sigurdson (8G/5A). The pair of attackmen are the only two top-five scorers returning for this team with the graduation of Chase Baker, Tristian Hanna, and Stephen Masi. The aforementioned attackmen will be looking to lead the way for an offense that wasn’t too great last season, averaging 8.60 goals per game as the seventh-worst scoring offense in DI.

Senior midfielder Nick Polydoras (10G/1A), who saw four starts last season, and junior Ian McKissick (3G/3A), who came off the bench in all 10 contests last season, are two of the Vikings’ other top returners on the offensive end that will be looking to help this offense take a step forward in 2022.

At the faceoff dot, Cleveland State returns sophomore Evan Moskwa following a strong freshman campaign in which he went 87-for-167 (52%) and ended the season ranked 35th in faceoff percentage in DI. With both an offense and defense that is likely to be pretty green, Moskwa looks to be the most impactful player on this team as he can set the tone and pace. And after what he did last season, there is no reason to believe he can’t continue to trend upwards and asset himself as one of the best at the position in the conference.

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