SLC Weekend Preview: Chapman battles Utah

Utah vs. No. 1 Chapman – Thurs., Feb. 16, 4 p.m. PT

The MCLA’s reigning champion meets the team with the biggest news of the offseason. The Chapman Panthers host the Utah Utes in a Thursday matchup that will have eyes on it from across the country, featured as the SLC Game of the Week on YouTube (subscription). It’s the start of an intriguing campaign for Utah, which the team’s staff is hoping will be the first of many steps toward becoming an NCAA Division I program by 2020. But first, the Utes go up against the SLC’s top team in Chapman.

After news emerged this week that junior Dylan Garner (Portland, Ore.), a preseason MCLA Player of the Year candidate, will be sidelined until March, this Chapman offense is looking for a replacement for his 131 career points. The team looked great in its opener against San Diego State, though, scoring 15 goals behind a five-point performance from Simon Jenkin (Bellevue, Wash.), who also had five ground balls.

Utah underwent a complete overhaul during the offseason, hiring a new coaching staff and making a number of significant roster changes. The Utes did retain two of their top five scorers from 2016, as junior attackman Luke Graney and junior midfielder Cameron Redmond, both Utah products, are still on the roster. Most of the faces are new, though, including freshman defender Tyler Chambers (Del Norte) who had 118 ground balls as a senior for the Nighthawks.

Arizona State, Santa Barbara hit the road for top-10 match-ups

No. 8 Arizona State at No. 5 Georgia Tech – Sat., Feb. 18, 10 a.m. PT

The Sun Devils didn’t start out on the right foot against Florida State, scoring only five goals in the loss. Now, they have a chance to turn it around against another SELC team in Georgia Tech. Only this time they’ll be across the country, on the Yellow Jackets’ home turf. ASU attackman Jake Marthens (Trabuco Hills) accounted for three of the team’s goals in the opener. For GT, it’s a big chance to snag a marquee win early in the year and bolster the SELC’s resume even more. Despite the team’s reputation as a defensive force, three players have registered eight points in the team’s two games.

No. 11 UC Santa Barbara at No. 2 Cal Poly – Sat., Feb. 18, 1 p.m. PT

The Gauchos might have suffered a surprising blowout loss to Cal to kick things off in 2017, but they bounced back with a narrow win over Stanford, sending them into this game against last season’s runner-up with momentum. Junior transfer Eli Suhadolnik (Torrey Pines), in his first season with the team, has scored five points in three games out of the midfield. That has complemented the attack production of Casey Mix (Corona del Mar) and Wesley Kim (Irvine), who have combined for nine goals and seven assists. The Gauchos have their toughest matchup yet with the Mustangs, though, who come in with dominant wins to start the year. Former Foothill goalie Sean Pihl is the front-runner for MCLA’s Goalie of the Year award after opening with a 77.8 save percentage on 28 saves through two games.

Tenth annual Pac-12 Shootout kicks off

Every year, the Pac-12 Shootout offers a number of nationally-relevant matchups. This year, the 10th edition of the early-season event, the two biggest games involve the University of Arizona.

No. 12 Oregon State vs. No. 10 Arizona – Sat., Feb. 18, 1 p.m. PT

The Beavers are coming in hot off of a neutral-site win over Sonoma State, and the LaxCats are reeling from a 1-2 start. It’s a battle of tournament teams from 2016, with a lot of resume implications on the line. After two years of relatively quiet production, UA midfielder Ryan Falbo (Foothill) burst onto the scene against Florida State. The junior had an astonishing 14 ground balls to exceed his entire career’s MCLA total, to go along with a goal and two assists. He will be a key cog for the LaxCats in righting the ship, and that starts on Saturday against OSU.

No. 18 Stanford vs. No. 10 Arizona – Sun., Feb. 19, 9:30 a.m. PT

An early-morning showdown between Top 20 teams could prove to be essential to Arizona’s season, depending on the result of their game versus Oregon State. The Cardinal took a season-opening loss to UC Santa Barbara, but not to any fault of the defense. Stanford allowed only eight goals in the game but struggled to produce momentum on the other end of the field. Expect this matchup to be a low-scoring affair.

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