After a rainy day in La Verne, the women’s soccer team suffered a 3-0 defeat to the Redlands Bulldogs on a crisp, cold and clear night at Damien High School.
The Bulldogs held constant pressure on the Leopards across the field, keeping possession of the ball for most of the game before capitalizing on one first half and two quick second half goals to seal the victory.
“We need to press quickly,” junior midfielder Kristina Roche said. “We need to know who our marks are, where they are and where they are going.”
The game opened quickly for the Bulldogs, taking their first shot within the first minute of play, but afterwards things settled for La Verne as they took their first shot in the fifth minute.
Throughout the first half, Redlands held possession, consistently bending the Leopard defense, but not breaking it.
However in the 23rd minute, Bulldog junior midfielder Meghan King found the net moments after an offsides call against the Leopards that many fans were unhappy about.
In the 22nd minute, the Leopards found themselves with their first corner kick opportunity that was knocked clear of the area and eventually led to the offside whistle.
Despite the offensive pressure from Redlands, the Leopards earned plenty of their own chances but at the critical moment could not put together the passes or finish their shots.
Also, the Leopards did not play to their own strengths, making their lives harder than needed.
“We’re good playing on the ground,” junior defender Sarah Ruden said. “We had a lot of balls in the air.”
Walking off the pitch into halftime, the Green, White and Black faced a 1-0 deficit, a lead that could have been easily overcome.
However, from the restart, the Bulldogs took off where they left off in the first half against a Leopard side that did not match the intensity.
“I think we felt like we were still in halftime,” sophomore forward Nancy Rodriguez said.
“Our momentum kind of went down a little,” Ruden said.
Four minutes into the half, Redlands found themselves up 2-0 on another strike by Connolly on a header to the far post from a corner kick.
Minutes later Connolly found the ball at her feet once again on a long through ball from the right side that she slotted home with a one-touch finish, creating the 3-0 advantage for the visitors.
After the slow start, La Verne regained composure and began striving for more chances against the multitude of Bulldog substitutes coming in.
Each chance was sparked by good stand-up defensive play by the Leopard defense, highlighted by Ruden, who played without hesitation when fighting for 50-50 balls and clearing the ball for her teammates to recover.
“‘Rudy’ is a fantastic defender and she brings a lot of physicality,” interim head coach Eddy Geenen said. “She is a very consistent player.”
La Verne’s best chance came 21 minutes into the half when sophomore forward McKenna Gooden took away a throw-in from the Bulldogs deep in their own territory.
She played the ball across the middle of the 18-yard box past a Redlands defender before sending the ball just wide of the crosscage post and the fingertips of Bulldogs sophomore substitute goalkeeper Sabrina Grandke-Bawab.
Now at the halfway point of the season, the team still looks to turn their fortune around and fight their way through the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“We need to continue the intensity from tonight’s game,” Geenen said. “I have a lot of belief in this team. They are a great group of ladies with great character, skill and work ethic and it will pay off in the second half of SCIAC.”
La Verne was led by freshman goalkeeper Delanie Pacheco’s seven saves.
The loss sets the Leopards’ overall record to 2-6-3 and 1-5 in SCIAC.
They return to the field at 7 p.m. tomorrow against the Whittier Poets at Damien High School.
Prior to Wednesday’s match, La Verne faced off with Division III foe UC Santa Cruz, resulting in a scoreless tie after 110 minutes. It was the Leopards’ third tie of the season.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.