In the anticipated match-up of two top 10 Division III teams from the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, sixth-ranked Cal Lutheran and fourth-ranked La Verne did not disappoint.
After falling down 4-0 early to the Kingsmen, the Leopards would battle back, but ultimately lose in overtime, 11-9.
“We made some mental mistakes and that led to team breakdowns,” junior utility Andrew McPartland said.
Cal Lutheran staked an early 4-0 lead by scoring three goals in the first quarter by sophomore drivers Scott Nelson and Michael Libutti and freshman 2-meter Matt Heagy, finishing with a game-high five goals.
“We didn’t execute our game plan,” senior driver Justin Haas said. “We were supposed to stop him from shooting. That didn’t happen.”
With the score at 4-0, the Leopards began to respond beginning 2:07 into the second quarter with senior utility Ricardo Negron scoring ULV’s first goal of the game.
The Leopards would tack on two more in the quarter from junior utility Gareth Pandy and senior driver Darren Richards, ending the quarter down 5-3 after Libutti scored for the Kingsmen with 16 seconds left in the quarter. After an early score in the third quarter by McPartland, junior utility Seth Shelton would tie up the game at 5-5 on a penalty shot two minutes into the quarter.
The game was back-and-forth from then on, with a score of 8-8 at the end of regulation.
Cal Lutheran would strike first to open overtime, taking a 9-8 lead on the shot by junior 2-meter Scott Bredesen after the first half of overtime. However, the Leopards would respond with a goal of their own by McPartland to open the last half.
Unfortunately that was the last the ball would see of the Kingsmen’s net, with Cal Lutheran prevailing after scoring the final two goals by Heagy and Nelson.
“I’m pretty disappointed,” head coach Tim Hugar said. “I don’t think we played very well. We need to be a little more aggressive.”
With No. 1 ranked Redlands being the Leopards’ next opponent, the team needed to move on from the frustrating loss as soon as possible.
“We need to move on to the next game,” Haas said. “All the teams in our conference are pretty even. Just because Redlands is ranked number one doesn’t mean that they’re the No. 1 team.”
Entering their first SCIAC match of the season against Caltech, the Leopards built some momentum after defeating Occidental and Harvard in their last two matches.
After a slow first quarter that ended with the Leopards clinging to a 1-0 lead, the Leopards pounced on the unsuspecting Beavers, scoring five goals in the second quarter, three in the third, and six in the fourth en route to a 15-6 victory.
Shelton finished with a game-high four goals, followed by the quartet of Haas, Richards, McPartland and sophomore utility Julian Czerwiec, each with two goals.
The Leopards had a much tougher match-up Thursday morning against the Harvard Crimson, winning 8-7 on a last-minute shot by Haas.
It took most of the first quarter for either team to put a score on the board, with the Leopards’ Shelton finally doing so with 1:32 left.
La Verne seemed to be on a roll after increasing their lead to 2-0 in the second quarter, but that’s when Harvard began to respond. Harvard would score the next three goals with utilities; senior John Voith and sophomore David Tune staking goals in the second quarter and Tune adding another to start the second half. With the game tied at seven, Haas scored the game-winning goal with 49 seconds left in regulation.
“It was definitely a big win, especially playing at home,” Haas said. “We don’t want people coming into our pool and outplaying us.”
Considering the Crimson out shot the Leopards 30-16, it’s a miracle ULV was able to secure this victory.
“It came down to a matter of executing chances. [ULV] converted, we didn’t,” Harvard head coach Erick Farrar said.
The Leopards next match will be against the Redlands Bulldogs at 11 a.m. Saturday in Redlands.
Kevin Zeni can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.