By Mark Carlisle and Len Hamilton
Two Chapman sports teams had prospects of playing for a national championship, though only one will get to capitalize on that chance. Men’s lacrosse received an at-large bid into the Men’s College Lacrosse Association (MCLA) tournament, while baseball did not get one of the 16 at-large bids it needed to make the NCAA Division III West Regionals.
Chapman will play Northeastern in the first round, but has its sights set on the later rounds of the tournament.
“They’re not going to be an Arizona State or a Colorado State,” said senior goalie Warren Nielsen. “If we play immature like we did earlier in the season, they can definitely pose a threat. But if we play well and execute well and utilize our depth, they won’t be any trouble at all.”
The Panthers’ side of the bracket has many difficult teams – ASU is the top ranked team in the MCLA – that have given them issues in the past, causing them to focus on the small things coming into the tournament.
“It’s little details, like how we go in on the faceoff and how we go after ground balls,” Nielsen said. “They make a difference in the game.”
If the Panthers beat Northeastern, they will play the winner of a matchup between defending champion Colorado State and Simon Fraser.
“Being the two-time defending national champion, they are very composed and experienced,” said junior midfielder Chris
Herrmann. “When the game gets close, they still run their systems.”
To reach the championship game, the Panthers would have to overcome an undefeated Sun Devils team that has beaten Chapman twice.
“It’s a cliché, you take care of one game at a time but it is hard not to look ahead,” Nielsen said. “We’re really pumped to get some redemption.”
The Panthers hope to ride on their strong defense in the postseason.
“The most consistent part of our game has been our defense,” Herrmann said. “Other than this last ASU game, we hadn’t given up more than eight goals in our last 13 (games).”
The baseball team lost in the conference tournament final to California Lutheran last weekend, and had to wait to see if it would be selected for a playoff bid.
The bids were announced Sunday night, and Chapman didn’t make the field.
Still, the Panthers spent the week practicing as usual while they waited to hear whether or not they would make it into the Regionals.
“We don’t control what the rankings are,” said senior pitcher Kevin Osaki. “The only thing we can do is control how prepared we are for playoffs next week. So, right now we’re just waiting and hoping for them to call our name.”
Six teams made the NCAA Division III West Regionals. The three division winners, Cal Lu, Linfield and Trinity (Texas), received automatic bids. No SCIAC teams received at-large bids.
The regional rankings put out last week by the NCAA showed the division winners in the top three spots and George Fox, Concordia and Chapman in the four, five and six spots, respectively.
“I really believe that we should be in,” said Chapman head coach Scott Laverty. “But that’s not the way it always works.”
Laverty says that, despite the uncertainty, the team remains focused on improvement.
“I really think our season went the way you want a season to go,” Laverty said. “You get better and better and better, and we were playing our best baseball at the end of the season. And so you just work to maintain that. And so the uncertainty really doesn’t affect your preparation.”
The Panthers went 1-4 against Cal Lu this year, and 0-2 against Trinity this season. Linfield won the NCAA Division III championship last year.
“All three are great teams, but I believe that we’re a great team too,” Osaki said. “Knowing what type of atmosphere playoffs are like, you know, it’s one game. It’s not a three-game series. It just depends who brings their A game that day.”