La Verne earns No. 1 seed in tournament

La Verne's Water Polo team played a dominating game against Occidental on Saturday, Nov. 7. Junior Caleb Diaz (#2) looks for an open shot on Occidental's goal. The Leopards won, 13-2. / photo by Veero Der-Karabetian
La Verne’s Water Polo team played a dominating game against Occidental on Saturday, Nov. 7. Junior Caleb Diaz (#2) looks for an open shot on Occidental’s goal. The Leopards won, 13-2. / photo by Veero Der-Karabetian

by Danny Eckardt
Staff Writer

The unbelievably successful first-year University of La Verne men’s water polo team ended its regular season on a good note Saturday, by defeating the Occidental Tigers, 13-3, earning the Leopards the No. 1 seed in the SCIAC tournament, which begins today.

“I think we worked really well together as a team, and our defense was our key as far as shutting them [Occidental] down,” said junior Corey Rodriguez. “Having our last home game, we weren’t about to lose, and we had to finish with a bang.”

The Leopards exploded offensively in the first half, when they scored six goals to the Tigers’ meager two.

“We are totally turning heads as far as coming in as a first-year team, doing as well as we are doing, and all the guys are stoked about it and coach [Tim Hugar] is stoked about it,” said junior Shannon Kay.

La Verne’s scoring opportunities came from its pressing defense, which caused Occidental to turnover the ball while in an over-pursuing attack formation.

“We were playing a press [defense], then when the ball was set, we would drop off to four and five-which are the wings and flats,” said freshman Jace Crispin.

In fact, the Leopards defense committed grand larceny, as it stole the ball 16 times.

The leader of ULV’s ball bandits was junior Kenny Clements, who had seven steals. The other impressive ball-thieving performance came courtesy of sophomore Ian Gratz, who had five steals.

“We would steal the ball from the whole set, and as we would steal it, the top people, which would be the flat-point and flat, we would take off on offense, and we would have a three-on-two counter attack,” said Crispin.

The Leopards who were responsible for putting points on the scoreboard were junior Caleb Diaz and junior Ryan Penrod (both with four goals), Crispin (three goals), and freshman Rey Lopez and Clements (both with a goal a piece).

“If we produce the offense we know how to produce, than we are going to go all the way [to the NCAA championships],” said Rodriguez.

La Verne continued its dominance in the second half, by scoring five more times and holding the Tigers to a single goal over the final two periods.

“It [the Occidental win] helps momentum-wise, but you don’t want to write anybody off,” said Kay. “We were mostly concentrating on the tough teams we are going to face this weekend and kind of using Oxy as a building point on there.”

The conference championships are tomorrow, and the Leopards are focusing on knocking off the teams they had so handily defeated during the regular season.

“The types of practices we have, is we go all out and sometimes the coach will have to tell us to mellow out because he doesn’t want us to hurt each other,” said Rodriguez.

In preparation for the conference championships, ULV needs to work on its ball side drives and defense, Crispin said.

La Verne’s nearly unblemished SCIAC record is 5-1, which is simply impressive for its inaugural season.

The only loss suffered by the Leopards came to Redlands, a team that it has beaten twice this season. In fact, ULV played all three of the Redlands games at the Bulldogs pool.

It is no small feat for a team, especially in its first season, to win more than half of the games against the same team on the road.

“We have come together like no other team I’ve been on,” said Rodriguez.

“I think everybody is proud of what we have done, and the school is behind us and that is awesome,” said Kay.

On top of its current success, the Leopards are physically peaking and look to sweep its conference championship games in route to the University’s first water polo championship title.

What is more important for La Verne is that it is ranked seventh in the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) and may end up playing top national teams like the University of San Diego, Air Force and UC Santa Cruz in the national water polo final four.

The WWPA is an equivalent of regionals for water polo.

“I think this team can beat anyone in the WWPA,” said Crispin. “We are confident in the fact that we are not going to go in cocky, or go in underestimating anybody or go in intimidated by anybody.”

The players are behind their first year head coach Hugar, who has done a great job.

“Our coach is an incredible guy,” said Rodriguez. “He stands for nothing but good.”

Because the Leopards are the No. 1 seed, they do not play until tomorrow at noon.

Related articles

La Verne inducts six into Hall of Fame

The University of La Verne’s 11th Annual Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held Saturday at the Sheraton Fairplex Avalon Ballroom.

Students, faculty resurrect a musical legend

Those in Founders Auditorium on April 16 at 8 p.m. witnessed a tribute to a man who made his mark on the history of American music during the 20th century, when “The Music of Cole Porter” was introduced by University of La Verne music professor Reed Gratz.

PianoFest trio plays its way into ULV

"Encore! Encore!" "Play one more!" Those were the words that the audience was shouting after the PianoFest Concert last Friday night at the University of La Verne in Founders Auditorium.

Polo sinks in two crucial match ups

Rewind to one year ago, when the Redlands and the La Verne men's water polo teams were battling against each other in every game they met with aggressiveness and toughness.
Exit mobile version