The University of La Verne men’s water polo team hit some rough waters as it went 0-4 in the UC Santa Cruz Tournament last weekend.
It was not smooth sailing for the Leopards, but they were able to play competitively against Division III Santa Cruz, and New York’s Fordham University.
They fell to the Banana Slugs, 10-8, and were tied at half against Fordham but finished down, 8-6.
The Leopards also lost to Division I Santa Clara and No. 9 UC Davis.
The ULV men have had to face a difficult schedule thus far. Although they have been unable to achieve a win in their past nine games, this squad of Leopards is on track for more improvement.
“The team has improved ten fold,” said head coach Alex La. “Even though we weren’t able to win any games this weekend, there has been drastic improvements from this weekend compared to the first weekend.”
“We are right there with our conference,” said senior utility Anthony Hernandez. “We just couldn’t pull off a win.”
The weekend was a challenging one, due to their travel schedule.
The team faced having to drive long hours and still expected to play matches.
But more importantly than the physical play of the game, the men focused together as a team, which is something they had struggled to do.
“We needed to communicate better and play as a team,” said junior driver Gerald Bolson. “But I think we’ve worked on that, so now we are going to focus on playing.”
The La Verne game against Santa Cruz got off to a good start with La Verne leading, 3-1, in the first quarter.
La Verne would not lead again after this, but instead battled back and finished short by two goals.
In addition, the men played well against Fordham, and were tied at the half, 4-4.
Senior goalie Steve Stragier was in the double digits making some remarkable blocks and saves, which helped to keep his team in the game.
Unfortunately, they lost, 8-6.
“We had a lot of fun and a good team experience,” Hernandez said. “We went there to play polo, but had a good experience.”
Big scoring advantages came when the Leopards were up a man off drawing an ejection.
“I believe the best part of this weekend was our power play,” La said. “Our six-on-five really clicked this weekend, and I felt confident in the men’s ability to score when we had a six-on-five advantage.”
“We’re finally starting to find a rhythm,” Hernandez said. “This weekend showed what we’re capable of if we work together as a team.”
The ULV men’s polo team still has strong potential to finish the year strong. With great outside shooters, in addition to being solid up the middle, the squad has the speed to compete to the top of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“The men have to be able to see their potential and not put a limit on their ability,” La said. “They have to believe in themselves and each other to reach our goals together.”
Having the next two weeks off will allow the men to focus on team play, situational aspects of the game, and conditioning.
“We have two weeks of training right now, so the only way we are going to move is forward.” Bolson said.
Besides tough conditioning, La feels attitude and spirits are just as important.
“The most important thing right now for the men is that each of them has to show a high level of commitment to the team as a whole, as well as an ability to persevere,” La said.
After their time off, La Verne will have a chance to avenge their losses as they take on Division III Chapman and Santa Cruz at the Claremont Convergence on Oct. 5-6.
Following tournament play, the Leopards will play at Pomona-Pitzer on Oct. 10.
Jennifer Gilderman can be reached at email@example.com.