Tale of Two Chico Teams

CHICO, CA (April 23) -- The enduring opening line from A Tale of Two Cities -- "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." -- aptly described the past week for the Chico State Wildcats. Their very own Tale of Two Teams saw profoundly different attitudes, levels of play, and outcomes a mere six days apart, on the same field and against comparable opponents. The difference? Pressure. Nothing more and nothing less.

Chico Nation hopes that Charlie Jackson and his coaching staff can turn this into a Teachable Moment.

Going into a tough three-game divisional homestand to wrap its regular season, Chico had to beat both UC Berkeley and UC Davis to make the WCLL playoffs. Against the Cal Bears on April 17, the weight of the moment was an all-too-evident drag on the Wildcats' performance. Playing tense, tight and tentative, the young Chico State squad let the opportunity slip away in a painful but largely self-inflicted 13-9 defeat.

Then on April 23, now pressure-free, with nothing hanging in the balance, an entirely different team showed up wearing the Chico cardinal and white. Its free, fast-moving play completely dominated the Davis Aggies (if anything, a better team than Cal, based on records), and the Wildcats stormed to an eye-popping 20-7 victory.

The relentless Chico attack was keyed by WCLL individual scoring leaders Graham Nichols (six goals) and Trevor Stotka (five). Grady Van Boxtel had four goals, and Alex Elson added a long-stick score. At the other end of the field, the Wildcats rotated through several defensive schemes that the Aggies never managed to decode. And on faceoffs, Ari Wangerin went an amazing -- though by now expected -- 21 for 25.

It was a memorable performance, and the lesson is clear: If that Wildcat team had showed up more often, 2011 would have been a very different season. More to the point now, Chico is already planning for that team to be the team in 2012.


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