The last strip of sod was laid Friday on the renovated Chapman athletic field, in plenty of time to prepare for the first football practice in August, 1994.
But for the field’s current users, the timing is far from fortuitous.
The Chapman men’s and women’s soccer teams have moved to nearby Orange High for practices and to Glover Stadium in Anaheim for home games until the field has grown properly.
It’s an unfortunate situation, said Gregg Murphy, who coaches both teams.
“The most upsetting and sad part of it for me and the players is it’s going to be a gorgeous field, but by the time it’s completed, the season will almost be over,” Murphy said.
The men’s soccer team has the worst of the early schedule. The Panthers will play their first nine games on the road before playing a so-called home game against Christian Heritage Sept. 21 at Glover.
“The men won’t have a home ground until late late September, so they’ve got their work cut out for them,” Murphy said. “It’s really going to show the character of this men’s team.”
The $500,000 renovation of the field was started in June and Murphy expected the field to be ready in time for a grand opening doubleheader Sept. 8. But it took longer than expected to get permits for the new lighting system and the entire project was delayed.
For the sod to properly take root, the field must be kept clear for six weeks. That means the first day the field could hold competition is Oct. 15. The men have four scheduled home games after that date; the women have five.
Murphy said he feels especially bad for seniors who won’t have a full season on the field, but the players are taking it remarkably well.
“It’s a little bit inconvenient but like I tell my players, we don’t have control over it,” Murphy said. “We can’t drive bulldozers or lay sod.”
Thus far, the Chapman men have fared well on the road. The Panthers beat Cal Baptist, 4-0, Wednesday, after a successful trip to Salt Lake City last week.
Friday, Chapman played to a 1-1 tie with host Westminster College and Sunday beat Colorado College, 3-1. Colorado College was top-ranked in the Far West region in the preseason NCAA Division III poll.
Murphy is confident the Panthers’ defense will be strong because of the return of senior defenders Dean Laird and Gabe Larusso. Goalkeeper Craig Bennett is also back, having recovered from a serious knee injury he suffered in the opening game last season.
Sophomore midfielder Erick Hurtarte is a consistent playmaker. The only thing lacking is a consistent goal-scorer, Murphy said.
Because Stasi Dimassis, the school’s all-time leading scorer with 59, has graduated, Murphy said the women also will be looking for offense.
The team, which opened the season Wednesday with a 3-3 tie at Cal Baptist, starts seven sophomores who all had an integral role last year when the program had its first winning season with a 10-8-1 record.
The defense, led by senior Leslie Gorden and sophomores Mary Folino and Julie Kanasi, is solid and senior midfielder Paula Aguilar is another bright spot.
Junior forward Carey Wright had nine goals and six assists last season.
Sod trivia: It took 174,000 square feet of a durable Bermuda hybrid to cover the Chapman field.
New names: Genevieve Ermeling, who as Genevieve Graff was a four-year women’s basketball standout at Christ College Irvine, is competing in cross-country this fall for Concordia University.
The former Graff married Brad Ermeling, a former CCI men’s basketball player, in August. Christ College changed its name to Concordia in July.
Genevieve Ermeling, who finished fifth in the national NAIA cross-country meet as a freshman, will start her final collegiate athletic season Saturday at the Whittier College Invitational at Clark Park in Buena Park.