The La Verne men’s water polo team took one out of four games last weekend as it co-hosted the 2007 Inland Empire Classic Tournament.
The tourney kicked off the season for the Leopards and brought out a variety of teams, such as top-ranked UCLA and teams from the East Coast.
“There were a lot of highs and a lot of lows [in the tournament],” senior captain Seth Shelton said.
The Leopards won their lone game in the tournament against Penn State-Behrend, 12-9.
However, ULV struggled to keep its composure against highly-ranked teams UC San Diego and Long Beach State.
Yet the Leopards put up a good fight against Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival Occidental, but came up short, 14-13.
“We could string together a few good quarters, but didn’t put together a full game,” Shelton said.
La Verne also fell to UCSD, 14-4, and to No. 9 Long Beach State, 22-3.
“It was a good learning experience,” senior Duncan Cox said.
Prowling the pool deck was new head coach Alex La, who felt that this weekend was a great stepping stone toward the season.
“There were some tough stretches this weekend, but the good moments provide a glimpse of how great this team truly could be,” La said.
The Leopards started off strong every game but the physical play soon wore down their bodies and attitudes.
“We’re a little fatigued right now,” Cox said. “But we will do better when we are a little less tired and have full concentration.”
“We’re ironing out some issues, like conditioning.” Shelton added. “We also need the team to mesh together and once we get those things figured out you’ll be able to see that in our play.”
Despite the 2-4 start, La still holds high expectations for this squad.
“In order for us to have a successful season we have to learn to utilize each other, from top to bottom,” La said. “Everybody wants to win and be successful, but we all have to be on the same page for us to attain our goals.”
While it is still early in the season, many players had outstanding performances.
Sophomore Jaime Beltran had a standout performance not only playing on the field but also as goalkeeper.
Beltran took over for injured senior goalie Steve Stragier and finished with 21 saves in Saturday’s games.
On Sunday he continued to prove he was a strong field player by contributing two goals against Occidental and chipping in one of the three goals scored against Long Beach State.
“I actually feel a little more pressure in the field because it’s more physical, and size does matter,” Beltran said of the other teams.
Other top contributors to this past weekend were junior Julian Czerwiec, who had five goals, along with senior Andrew McPartland.
Shelton and senior Anthony Hernandez both had four goals a piece over the weekend.
The Leopards will head to Thousand Oaks this weekend for the California Lutheran Tournament.
Jennifer Gilderman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.