As August 2012 rolled around, Chapman teams prepared for something they hadn't thought of in almost 20 years – a conference championship. Chapman officially joined the SCIAC for the 2012-13 school year in a full capacity, meaning the Panthers were eligible to win conference titles for the first time in their NCAA Division III history.
The women's soccer team was the first to plant the Chapman flag in a SCIAC championship mountain as it took down Pomona-Pitzer 4-1 in the SCIAC Tournament Championship match on Nov. 3, 2012.
Carly Sanchez '13 – now an elementary school teacher in San Diego – was a senior and team captain on Chapman's first SCIAC title-winning team. She took a look back at the Panthers' inaugural championship run.
"The team knew being in SCIAC gave us a much clearer road to get into the NCAA playoffs and we really wanted to take advantage of that. When we won the Final I remember being in shock that we actually pulled it off."
The Panthers never left Wilson Field during their first taste of the SCIAC Postseason Tournament. Chapman entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed to host third-seeded Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the semifinal. After fourth-seeded Pomona-Pitzer pulled off an upset on the other side bracket, Chapman was able to stay home for the championship match.
While its first season in the SCIAC ended in jubilation, the journey there wasn't without its bumps in the road. Chapman lost four of its first six SCIAC matches for a less than desirable 2-4 start in September. Then the calendar flipped to October and Chapman caught fire.
The Panthers won their next three SCIAC matches to get above .500 and went on to win seven of their last nine SCIAC matches in October to catapult into a tie for second place in the standings. They also won the tiebreaker with CMS to earn the No. 2 seed in their first SCIAC Postseason Tournament.
"It was Halloween night and we were playing Claremont at home to advance to the SCIAC tournament finals," Sanchez recalled. "I played 110 minutes on the field that night with no goals scored for either side. We ended up having to go to PKs to decide the game."
Of course, the penalty kicks came down to the fifth round with both teams tied at 2-2. Val Sobol had converted Chapman's first PK but back-to-back Chapman misses gave CMS a 2-1 lead. Jordan Royer brought the Panthers back to even with a fourth-round goal before another CMS miss opened the door for captain Aimee Evans to send Chapman into the SCIAC championship match.
"I remember watching from the sidelines through my fingers while my teammates took the PKs. It all came down to my co-captain and roommate Aimee Evans who won the game for us on the last one."
With fourth-seeded Pomona-Pitzer upsetting Cal Lutheran in overtime on the other side of the bracket, the Panthers earned the right to host its first championship match and did not disappoint.
Chapman quickly ran away with the SCIAC Tournament title, scoring three times in the first half and once more early in the second to cruise to a 4-1 win and clinch the first SCIAC title in Chapman Athletics history.
"I know my teammates would agree that we put in the work to be there. I am definitely proud to be on the first Chapman team to win a SCIAC championship. It is awesome to be part of Chapman athletics history," Sanchez added.
After Chapman's year ended, so did Sanchez's collegiate soccer career. For the team captain, the championship run was one of many experiences that she cherishes from her time with "WSCR" as Chapman women's soccer alumni affectionately call the program. One such experience, that she had with her teammates off the field, had a long-lasting affect.
"My freshman year, my friend Wasim and I started getting people together to play pick up soccer. We did this all four years at Chapman and it was awesome because it wasn't just soccer players from the Chapman teams but all types of people who loved to play the game. I not only met my husband through pick up soccer but also international students, professors, and people from different groups around Chapman that I otherwise wouldn't know."
Chapman sports have gone on to claim nine titles that have granted an automatic berth into an NCAA Tournament across a variety of sports during the SCIAC era of Chapman Athletics but the historic first will always belong to the women of Chapman WSCR in 2012.