Momentum is not always the answer.
Chapman’s spring sports teams were reminded of this harsh reality over the weekend, with baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse all falling short of claiming Chapman’s first conference championship of the year.
Despite each team winning all of its respective games last weekend (including softball and baseball going 4-0 in their respective series), the Panthers wound up on the wrong side of some season-deciding results a week later.
Baseball fell 5-4 to the University of Redlands in the first round of the double-elimination, despite edging the Bulldogs in two of the teams’ three matchups this season. This meant the Panthers had to beat the University of La Verne in order to keep their title chances alive. The Panthers pulled off a clutch 8-7 victory to advance to the semifinals, only to meet Redlands again.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, there would be no sweet revenge.
The Bulldogs had five multi-run innings that compounded into a 17-8 trouncing of the Panthers, who uncharacteristically crumbled after a gutsy performance against La Verne the previous day. The third-place finish in the tournament capped off a streaky season for the Panthers, who went into the tournament as the No. 2 seed. While third place is nothing to sneeze at, the result will be a tough one to accept for a team that openly held national championship ambitions.
Softball’s young roster should take encouragement from its playoff finish. The team – which only had one senior on this year’s roster – had a string of four wins at the end of the season that offset some midseason inconsistency and squeezed them into the playoff picture.
Though they went 0-2 in the double-elimination playoffs, one poor inning kept the Panthers out of reach from a surprise semifinal appearance.
With 20 returning players next season, expect softball to improve next spring.
Women’s lacrosse experienced perhaps the most brutal loss of the weekend. After bouncing back from two tough losses at the end of the season with a 17-10 playoff semifinal victory over Occidental College April 29, the Panthers found themselves matched up against the undisputed best team in the conference: the undefeated-in-conference, ridiculously consistent and scary fast Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas.
The odds were stacked against Chapman from the offset, and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps delivered when it mattered. Although the Panthers made defensive adjustments for the game to avoid a repeat of the 20-1 rout Claremont-Mudd-Scripps dealt them April 19 at Wilson Field, the Athenas eventually pulled away to a 18-9 victory and claimed the conference title.
There was a fraction of a chance that Chapman would receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament like it did last year, but the selection committee opted to send higher-ranked Colorado College to the big show instead.
With six seniors graduating, including many of the team’s key attackers and its starting goalkeeper, the Panthers will have to rebuild a core group of leaders going into next season in order to build on their two consecutive conference finals appearances.
While each of these teams will be happy to have made the postseason, the playoff losses mean that the 2016-17 sports season was barren of championship titles for Chapman Athletics, with men’s soccer being the only team to qualify for the NCAA tournament.