Chapman’s lacrosse team tore onto its home ground at Wilson Field March 31, ready to defeat the team’s long-standing rivals, the Concordia University Irvine Eagles. Fueled by the crowd of friends and fans cheering on from the stands, the Panthers were “fired up” in the locker room and ready to play, said junior Wiley Bonham, an attacker on the team and business administration major.
Despite the heated competition, the Panthers ended up winning the game 14-9. This marked the team’s eighth consecutive win so far in the season, which Bonham said puts the team on track for the Southwestern Lacrosse Conference (SLC) divisional playoffs and eventually, the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) National Championships.
Despite the team’s recent wins, the Panthers’ season started with two consecutive losses in their second and third games. Chapman lost 15-14 to University of California, Berkeley Feb. 16 and lost 12-11 to George Institute of Technology Feb. 22. Senior goalkeeper Daniel Aguilar, a strategic and corporate communication major, said that the team’s early losses might be due to a lack of cohesiveness among teammates.
“We were shooting ourselves in the foot. We were being pretty sloppy,” Aguilar said. “It killed our confidence a lot and we were doubting our team for a little bit.”
Even though those early losses were “discouraging,” junior Jack Phillips, a midfielder and strategic and corporate communication major, said he viewed them as a lesson.
“Those two losses really humbled us and brought perspective to this year,” Phillips said. “It made us come together as a team.”
Sophomore Ethan Smith, a midfielder and business administration major, said the team began practicing more seriously after its losses. Following that training period, the Panthers made a strong comeback in a next game against Michigan State University March 3, winning 11-9. Bonham said this was the “most satisfying” win of the season — the Panthers lost to Michigan State in the national championship game in 2018.
“After two losses, this game was a do or die for us. It was a must-win,” Bonham said.
And it was a turning point for the team. The Panthers have not lost a game since.
“That game was a statement to let everyone know that we’re still here and we’re not backing down,” Phillips said.
Sophomore George McGuirk, an attacker and public relations and advertising major, said the key to the team’s success has been its teamwork.
“We play as a team. We’re not focused on one person scoring or making all the plays,” McGuirk said.
With a 10-game winning streak and only two games left in the season, the Panthers feel primed to make it to both the SLC playoffs and the MCLA National Championships.
But despite the team’s record, Phillips said it’s “crunch time” for the Panthers.
Phillips also said he is most excited to play one of the team’s biggest rivals April 14: University of California, Santa Barbara. In preparation for the playoffs and the last few games of the season, Smith said the team practices for two hours daily, which the team’s head coach, Dallas Hartley, calls “high tempo.”
The team runs different plays, does push-ups, jogs intermittently, discusses strategies with the coaches and cheers one another on from the sidelines. The team commits plays to memory by writing them down and works one-on-one with a trainer.
“We do a little bit more so that when we get on the field, we’re prepared and we’re able to make the most of that two-hour period,” Phillips said.
For the playoffs, Smith is staying focused.
“The only team that can beat us is ourselves,” Smith said.