An exciting second half led to a Whittier comeback, resulting in a 2-1 final score as the men’s soccer team fell to the visiting Poets in overtime on Sept. 14 at Damien High School.
The Leopard’s controlled the pace of the pace of the first half and came out strong.
“We need to learn how to maintain leads and we can’t sit back and enjoy a lead for 90 minutes,” head coach Cres Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez expected his Leopards be a fast paced team and with that mentality, it gave the Leopards the ability to strike first.
La Verne struck first during the 40th minute of the first half when sophomore forward Abdullah Alharshan scored on a header off of a corner kick taken by freshman midfielder Brent Chamberlain.
Alharshan was part of a second unit that Gonzalez put in the game in the 35th minute of the first half.
“When coach put us in he told us to put pressure on the ball and shoot at the first chance they gave us,” Alharshan said.
The Leopards were able to keep the Poets from scoring in the first half with their great defense.
The defense, led by sweepers Wesley Lucas and Andrew Geenen, and goalkeeper Richard Duran, only allowed 18 shots in the match.
La Verne went into halftime with a 1-0 lead although Whittier held a 7-6 advantage in the shots category.
At the start of the second half the Leopards started right where they left off by putting pressure on the Poet defense.
But the Whittier defense stood strong.
The Poets forced La Verne offsides six times on the day while the Poets were only called offsides once.
“I don’t want to blame the loss on the referees, but there was a play when a player looked offsides and it wasn’t called,” Geenen said. “The referee made a mistake, but it all just seemed a little fishy to me.”
Besides the questionable calls, the Leopards kept up the offensive pressure with great play from players like Hector Lepe, Boye Christiansen, Ryan Estrada, Abraham Perez, and Peter Careaga.
With the final moments winding down and the Leopards still controlling the pace of the game, Whittier junior forward Srdan Jovanovic was able to slip one by the Leopards with a finish on an 86th minute cross through the penalty area.
At the end of regulation the score was tied 1-1 and the Leopards and the Poets had to head into overtime.
In the 94th minute Jovanovic found the back of the net on a shot from six yards out to end the game with the golden goal.
“We took control of the game, but they finished their chances and we had a lot of chances but just couldn’t put them away,” Lucas said.
“We gave it our all, but I still feel like we can handle any team in our conference.”
La Verne will face Whittier one more time this season, at 7 p.m. on Oct. 8 in Whittier.
“I think this will make the team a lot stronger and we will beat them at their house next time,” Geenen said.
It was a physical game that was fought hard by both teams.
Whittier committed nine fouls and received two yellow cards, both in the second half.
La Verne committed 13 fouls but did not receive any yellow cards during the game.
Lepe led the Leopards with five shots for the game followed by two for Estrada.
The Leopards will try to record their first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win at 11 a.m. Saturday at Pomona-Pitzer.
Christian Orozco can be contacted at email@example.com.