by Scott Harvey
Going into the last part of the season at 2-10 is not exactly what head coach Mike Collins had planned for his first year, but one thing is for sure, the men’s soccer team has improved and is becoming a real competitor to everyone it plays.
In an early home game Saturday against Pomona-Pitzer, the Leopards proved that being competitive and playing hard are just as important as winning. Although the final score was 4-1 in favor of Pomona-Pitzer, La Verne came out with an intensity that it had left behind for so many games.
“The guys were really fired up about this game. They knew how talented Pitzer was and they definitely had something to prove,” said Collins.
The first half belonged to Pomona-Pitzer as midfielder Eric Dugan booted a towering shot into the ULV goal 35 seconds into the game. The Sagehens struck again when forward Tim Kang deflected a bullet from forward Will Voight to boost the Pomona-Pitzer lead to two goals.
Pomona-Pitzer scored twice more in the half, punishing senior goalkeeper Tim Kyle with a goal by forward Anthony Reyes deep in the La Verne zone and another by Voight that barely cleared the head of the diving Kyle.
In the second half, the La Verne team came out more aggressively and after four minutes expired, the Leopards had a chance to score on a penalty kick deep in the Sagehen zone. Freshman midfielder Armando Hernandez took the kick, a hard shot which rolled past goalkeeper Justin Bick-Forrester and put La Verne on the board, 4-1.
The second half proved to be a back-and-forth struggle as both teams managed to keep the ball out of the offense’s reach.
“We played strongly in the second half, but we made costly mistakes in the first. That was what hurt us the most,” said Collins
The Leopards travelled to Occidental Wednesday to play a strong and successful Tiger squad. It was a game in which La Verne fought the whole way, but came up one goal short as Occidental prevailed, 3-2.
La Verne’s first defining moment in the game came with five minutes left in the half as senior defender Eric Gleason booted a 20-yard shot, which perfectly sailed to the foot of forward Darin Soliday, who directed the ball into the Tiger goal, making the score 2-1.
The Leopards were hit by a crushing blow when striker Rusty Smith collided with Tiger goalkeeper Filberto Barajas. Smith left the game and the first half came to a close two minutes later with the Tigers ahead.
In the second half, Freeburg scored early on a blooping shot that dropped over the La Verne defenders and in the goal to up their lead, 3-1.
Controlling the ball was the key for ULV as it scored again on a shot by Soliday, but it did not prove to be enough as time ran out, leaving Occidental on top, 3-2.