For the first time since 2006, Chapman athletes will open their seasons on a brand new turf field. The men’s and women’s lacrosse teams are the first to set foot upon the newly installed surface of Wilson Field this spring, with practices already underway and the start of their seasons less than two weeks away.
Both the men’s and women’s teams will open their seasons on Feb. 20, though the women’s team will get to play its inaugural game on the new field a little over a week earlier than the men’s team, facing off against the University of Redlands. The men’s team will open its season on the road at Sonoma State and University of California, Berkeley before it returns for its home opener on Feb. 29 against the University of Florida.
“It’s nice. It has more of the actual real grass feeling to it because the pellets are loose, and that’s what you want,” said men’s lacrosse head coach Dallas Hartley. “After a turf field is around for a long time, the pellets get smashed down. It starts to feel harder.”
Women’s lacrosse head coach Daniel Kirkpatrick said the field had a lot of uneven patches last year.
“It was not really safe for the athletes,” Kirkpatrick said. “But this year, since it’s brand new and we’re kind of the first team that’s using it, it’s fresh and it’s a little bit spongier, a little bit squishier.”
Senior attacker and a captain of the men’s lacrosse team, Steve Koressel, said the new turf is “way nicer.”
“I’d say it’s a lot smoother,” he said. “The last one, you could tell it was getting old and this one is super nice and smooth, no potholes.”
In addition to being safer for athletes, the new surface also appears to provide tangible improvement in the fluidity of games.
“It seems to play faster. Our guys seem to be flying around,” Hartley said. “The ball takes a nice true bounce off of it.”
Though the women’s lacrosse team will have to wait to have its lacrosse lines painted on, whereas the men’s team has sewn-in lines, junior attacker Gretchen Rodenberger said she was happy to have the new surface and excited for the upcoming season.
“I like the top layer – it looks like cork or something,” Rodenberger said. “The black rubber stuff doesn’t get all in your shoes as easily.”
New field aside, Rodenberger said she was excited for the season. The women’s lacrosse team (8-6, 6-6) finished third out of six teams in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last season, a result Rodenberger said the team was eager to improve on.
“I’m expecting the other teams to be ready for us,” Rodenberger said. “Redlands was our biggest competition last year and always has been, and we beat them twice and so, since they’re our first game, I’m assuming they’re going to come out really fired up. But I expect us to be ready.”
Kirkpatrick said he expected his team to compete for a conference championship, but understood improvement in the team’s consistency would be needed for that to be accomplished.
“That was a bit of a struggle for us last year, and I think we’ve talked about that a lot as a team and trained with our fitness and our stick skills, and I think we can adjust to the different teams.”
The men’s lacrosse team will have very high expectations set for itself this season as well, as the Panthers will enter the season ranked No. 4 by the Division I club lacrosse coaches’ poll.
The men’s lacrosse team (16-4, 6-0) won the Southwestern Lacrosse Conference North Division last year, but lost to Grand Canyon University, who won the DI Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association national tournament last year.
“We’ve got a real tough schedule and we think we’ve got a really good team,” Hartley said. “I’m just excited for the first weekend of games up in Northern California. We start with two top-25 teams, Sonoma State and Cal, so it should be a tough atmosphere on the road.”
Koressel said that the team would be well-prepared for the season, despite losing All-Americans Zack Dutra and Brenton Croteau, along with Chris Herrmann and Colin Laviola.
“Other than that, we got all of our starting attack back, most of our starting defense and our goalie, so I think we have a solid squad,” Koressel said.
As far as what he expects from the season, Hartley said the team has to take it one game at a time.
“I think our overall goals are to win league, the SLC North and then get into our league final four and make some waves there, and go into nationals with a high seed,” Hartley said.