In its 2nd year, Cleveland State men’s lacrosse looks to a bright future

first_img Published on February 27, 2018 at 11:02 pm Contact David: [email protected] Facebook Twitter Google+ In the last week of June 2015, Dylan Sheridan was busy evaluating eighth- and ninth-grade lacrosse players at an Under Armour skills camp when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket.At the time, Sheridan was the defensive and recruiting coordinator for Princeton men’s lacrosse, and had spent the previous four years at Denver as a face-off coach and defensive coordinator, helping the Pioneers to three final four appearances.Sheridan took his phone out of his pocket to see Cleveland State’s athletic director, John Parry, calling him. Less than a month prior, Sheridan had interviewed to become the inaugural head coach for the Vikings, and moments after he answered the call from the camp, he found out he’d been chosen.“I felt it could be a pretty special place,” Sheridan said. “(Parry) really loved the game and it was a school that I felt could be attractive to a lot of different kids. I decided I would love to be there if they wanted me, and fortunately, they chose me.”A year and a half later, Sheridan is leading Cleveland State (1-5), a team comprised of 39 underclassmen and one senior, in its second season of existence. In 20 games since the start of last season, the Vikings have faced eight top-20 teams, including Duke, Denver and Ohio State, and are set to play three more before ending the 2018 season. Although CSU has a losing record and a roster full of inexperienced players, Sheridan and Cleveland State believe a young core and willingness to schedule ranked opponents will help them compete for championships down the road.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAfter leaving Princeton and committing to the Cleveland State job, Sheridan shifted his focus to recruiting high school juniors, rather than freshmen, to start filling his roster. Most Division I-bound players had already committed by the time they were in ninth or 10th grade, so Sheridan knew his best bet was to find late-bloomers and players who hadn’t decided whether they wanted to play college lacrosse.Zach Whitenack, who was lightly recruited despite being one of Ohio’s top high school players, Sheridan said, was the first to consider the program. He visited Cleveland State’s campus in late July 2015, the summer before his senior year. The Galena, Ohio, native was the first to commit, which sparked an increased interest from other rising-seniors still looking for a home. In early August, 12 players visited and ended up committing. One of the 12, Tristen Copeland, noted the difficult schedule Sheridan promised as the reason for his commitment.“We were all told we’ll play some of the best top-tier teams,” Copeland said. “Growing up as a kid, that’s all you can ask for. Being from North Carolina, I always grew up watching Duke. And as a freshman, being able to play on their home field was an absolutely surreal experience.”By Feb. 2017, with a complete, 36-man roster in place, the Vikings were set to make their D-I debut. Sheridan wasn’t worried about wins and losses. Rather, he simply wanted his team to compete. In its first season, with a roster composed of 34 freshmen and two juniors, Cleveland State went 5-9. Six of the defeats came against nationally-ranked opponents.The Vikings made “underclassmen mistakes,” Copeland said, and they needed to act like age and experience weren’t factors.“We were all basically freshmen on the field at the Division I level,” Parese Williams, then one of CSU’s two upperclassmen, said. “It was tough at times. Just because we’re inexperienced doesn’t mean we have to play that way.”Williams, who is the sole upperclassman on the Vikings’ current roster, transferred to Cleveland State after two years at Howard (Maryland) Community College. Erik Foust, the head coach at HCC, contacted Sheridan when he heard a lacrosse program was forming at Cleveland State, referring to Williams as his top defender and a Division I-quality player.Williams chose CSU, and when he arrived, he immediately adopted a leadership role. He tried to guide the younger players with the experience he gained from two years at HCC.Going into CSU’s second-ever season, Sheridan knew he and his players wanted to do more than just compete. Despite stacking his team’s schedule with three top-10 opponents, the Vikings’ main goal was to build on last season’s foundation.“We could water things down, but it wouldn’t help our current student-athletes,” Sheridan said about his team’s ambition to challenge the nation’s best. “And it wouldn’t help the future of the program.”Six games into the 2018 season, the Vikings have one win, an 8-7 triumph over Air Force on Feb. 23. While its record is not ideal, Cleveland State’s wins will come as the players continue to improve and become more experienced each day, Sheridan said.As expected with any new athletic program, Cleveland State lacrosse has experienced struggles in its first year and a half of competition. The Vikings’ youth and desire to play the best has Sheridan hopeful for the future of lacrosse in northeast Ohio.“Nobody in lacrosse ever had a reason to come through the city of Cleveland. There aren’t tournaments here, there’s not high-quality high school lacrosse here,” Sheridan said. “We want to get the word out about all the great things happening here.” Commentslast_img read more