Chapman Will Have Hands Full With Ducks
Did the bracket set up like Chapman head coach Dallas Hartley thought it would?
"It's a little different," said Hartley, with a chuckle. "We knew that if we lost the SLC championship game we'd probably bounce to six. That's not the end of the world. But I didn't think I'd see Oregon there."
The biggest surprise during the unveiling of this year's field was the Ducks checking in at the No. 11 seed. Oregon finished the season with a 14-3 record, with the three losses coming to No. 1 seed Cal Poly, No. 3 Brigham Young and Chapman. Presumably, the weakness of the PNCLL sent the Ducks tumbling down the bracket.
"That's a top 5 team," said Hartley. "I guess they were looking at strength of schedule or something, but they lost to us by two, they lost to Cal Poly by three and they got whooped in Utah, but who doesn't? I think they are better than that. That's going to be a quarterfinal or semifinal type match-up."
The first meeting between the two resulted in an 11-9 victory for the Panthers at Oregon, but it wasn't easy. Seeing the Ducks again, combined with Chapman's abysmal performance in the conference finals against Arizona State, Hartley knows his players won't be heading to Greenville with a false sense of confidence.
"It got our attention right away," said Hartley of drawing Oregon. "We played about as bad as we can in our SLC championship game. That certainly allowed us to look at our weaknesses and focus on some things this week and hopefully that will be good for us in the long run."
Perhaps the most important part of the week leading up to their trip to South Carolina was the return of middie A.J. Rafter, who has been sidelined since suffering a concussion against Arizona. Rafter is one of Chapman's top middies on both ends of the field and even ASU head coach Chris Malone admitted that having him out of the line-up in the SLC title game made a difference.
Chapman should also have Madison Fiore back at full strength after he went down with an injury during the league championship tilt. That will help playing a team as good as Oregon, but Hartley is stressing the fact that his team can no longer afford any letdowns.
"On any given day," said Hartley about what he has been preaching to his team all week. "Making plays and finishing plays. You can't afford to have an off day. We lost in the SLC championship game – big deal. Now we get to go after something bigger and see what happens. We just can't afford to play poorly."