Men's spring preview: Horizon League

Men's spring preview: Horizon League

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Men's spring preview: Horizon League

For a dedicated team like Cleveland State, failing to win a tournament after entering as the favorite can carry a hefty after-effect. Especially when it’s the conference championship, and it’s followed by a long summer break over which to reflect.

The morning after the Vikings returned home empty-handed from the Horizon League Championship last spring, they were already back on the practice range. That trend continued over the summer, and head coach Steve Weir even noticed a few players had improved their fitness by they returned to campus in the spring. That attests to this squad’s work ethic and tough mental game, but there’s more.

Weir and his team made a goal to win every tournament on the schedule this year. That’s up from just wanting to win the conference championship, the goal Weir set six years ago, in his first season at Cleveland State. It happened in the spring of 2008, and again in ‘09 and ‘11.

This season, Weir didn’t feel like that was enough.

“There wasn’t a sense of urgency each week,” Weir explained. Even the upperclassmen noticed it.

So Cleveland State entered the fall hoping to win in each outing. That became impossible after a seventh-place finish at the Turning Stone Tiger Intercollegiate and a ninth at the Marshall Fall Invitational. Still, the Vikings rallied to win the next week at the John Piper Intercollegiate. The victory broke a winless streak that stretched back to the 2011 Horizon League Championship. The Vikings had to play through rain and high winds in the final round, but it didn’t phase them and actually might have helped.

“This is a team that doesn’t care what kind of weather they’re playing in,” Weir said. The only player on the roster that doesn’t hail from Ohio calls Pennsylvania home.

Weir explains that last year’s third-place finish at the league championship was a result of the top two players showing up without their “A” games. The bottom of the roster was a pleasant surprise. This year, they all get another shot. Cleveland State’s roster was consistent in the fall, especially in the top four spots. Not one player carried the team, but everyone contributes, and everyone has experience.

“It was nice to not have to break in too many players,” Weir said.

It also means there’s a sense of unfinished business.

• • •

Where it stands now

Top of the class: Cleveland State

Best player this fall: Andrew Bailey, Cleveland State

• • •

Past champions

2007: Detroit

2008: Cleveland State

2009: Cleveland State

2010: Detroit

2011: Cleveland State

2012: Loyola-Chicago

• • •

Conference capsules

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