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posted 03.25.2013 at 10.02 a.m. by Jac Coyne

MCLA Division I Notebook

When the new rules came out, Chapman head coach Dallas Hartley thought it would be a boon for his team. He figured it would force some of the grinding teams in the MCLA to play more at the pace that the Panthers' were accustomed. As such, he and his staff went into the season conjuring up ways to maximize the team's potential.

After Chapman lost two of its first three games, it was clear the rules weren't going to completely revamp the way the game is played.

"We had originally intended to play three lines as much as possible and not go with too many specialists," Hartley said of his initial plan. "That was kind of hurting us. We feel like we have two really strong lines in the midfield, not necessarily three, and we've got some good specialists defensively. We tried to work with the new rules and play faster, but in reality, it was hurting us personnel-wise. I don't think we've been playing great, necessarily, but we're just playing a bit more consistently."

Hartley admits to being a little surprised that the rules haven't impacted the pace of play, but he feels that the contrasting tactics he's seen this year have kept his team on its toes.

"I was under the impression there would be a lot more run and gun, but I haven't seen much change in the speed of the game," Hartley said. "There have been a lot of different styles. Grand Canyon has a couple of Canadian attackmen running sort of a pairs offense. We had never seen Richmond before; Oregon has a brand new coach. BYU has all new moving pieces. A lot of different teams we've seen in the past are doing new things. That's kind of the beauty of the MCLA. There is so much attrition and turnover, you don't know what you're going to get from year to year."

With all of the different looks that the Panthers were getting, it was almost a relief to play Arizona State in the fifth game of the season. Despite the fact that the Sun Devils were one of the better teams in the MCLA, at least Chapman knew what it was going against.

"We know them so well and they know us that it comes down to playing lacrosse," Hartley said. "We had a great unknown with both Oregon and BYU because we didn't have tape on either of them and all of our opponents have had so many moving parts, it was nice going into ASU knowing what they were trying to do and their personnel. There was a deep sigh of relief after we won. It was nice to get back over .500 and that would be a big win for us going forward."

The Panthers had put together a modest six-game winning streak after starting 1-2 prior to the Panthers' road loss to No. 3 Colorado, 9-8, on Saturday night. While Chapman is stacked with solid offensive players such as Tyler Ankarlo (20g, 5a), Timmy Andrews (12g, 11a) and A.J. Rafter (7g, 7a), Hartley feels his defense has been the key to the team's success so far.

If he had to choose an MVP to this point, he said it would be either senior close defender Jordan Levack or junior netminder Warren Neilsen. Neilsen has been particularly impressive this season, posting a 61.0 save percentage.

"He's having his best year yet," Hartley said of his goalie. "I think teams that scout us out don't think he's the best guy on our team, but he's been playing like he's the best guy on our team."

Saturday's loss to the Buffs, combined with a tall task on Monday against No. 1 Colorado State, means Chapman could very well be riding a two-game losing streak when it returns for Orange County. Even so, Hartley is a lot more comfortable with his team now than he was at the beginning of the season.

"This weekend is one of those measuring sticks where if you win both, it's fantastic and propels your season," he said. "If you lose both, it's not the end of the world. You're playing two great teams on the road. We're just trying to worry about ourselves a whole bunch right now."

- California had the ranking and a tough schedule, but still needed that signature win to catch the committee's eye. They got it on Saturday with a 12-7 victory over No. 8 Oregon. That was a Greenville win...speaking of Greenville wins, Sonoma State established its bonafides with a sweep of its Virginia trip. The Seawolves flew all the way across the country and dispatched Richmond, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh. It's pretty much a done deal that the WCLL will be a three-bid league...after getting handled in Michigan by both MSU and Davenport, Buffalo needs to set its sights on the PCLL AQ.

- Rough sledding for Utah down in the desert. The Utes weren't real close with Arizona, Grand Canyon or Arizona State, losing by a combined score of 48-16. There might only be two wins left on Utah's schedule the rest of the way...Florida also went 0-2 in Arizona, losing to both ASU and UA. Gators only have one win this spring (Miami, Fla.)...speaking of fruitless weekends, South Carolina took the collar in its two-game N.C. swing...Chapman's Hartley said he's been proud of his team's success in the classroom. The Panthers have a team GPA of 3.5.