The men’s water polo team faced a tough loss in its first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 12-4 Saturday at the La Verne Aquatics Center.
The Leopards defeated CMS Sept. 13 in the preseason, 13-10, but it was not enough to beat the Stags a second time.
“The team did a very good job staying on top of their game today,” head coach William Rodriguez said. “They tried their best but at the end of the day, it was just not enough to get the win that we wanted.”
The Stags got an early 3-0 lead in the first quarter of the game and La Verne got within two points but fell behind in the fourth quarter.
“I felt that we just didn’t execute on our defense that we usually do,” sophomore driver Jared Hopley said. “We definitely could’ve done a lot more but we were not mentally ready.”
It was a back-and-forth hustle in the pool as both teams put the pressure on each other.
Junior driver Matthew Vega scored first for the Leopards with 14 seconds left in the first quarter, 3-1, with CMS still in the lead.
The Stags started the second quarter with two goals but La Verne answered back with goals of their own.
With 4:13 left in the second, junior defender Troy Williams made a trick shot from behind the back, 5-2.
Williams also kept the momentum going with an assist to junior defender Viken Huening, 5-3.
The defense then fell behind as CMS scored back-to-back goals, entering the third quarter with a 7-3 lead.
“We have to work on scoring a goal when we are given the opportunities,” Huening said. “They were able to score on our mistakes.”
Shot attempts by Vega, Huening and freshman driver Josh Vega were not enough, as the Stags defense turned them away.
In the fourth quarter, CMS took advantage La Verne’s mistakes and shutout the Leopards with four unanswered goals.
“The shutout showed us that we have things to work on and definitely go back to our play book and watch film,” Rodriguez said. “Not only the front court but the back court must work together so things like that don’t happen.”
Sophomore attacker, freshman utility Noah Deer and junior attacker Tanner Allen led the Stags with goals in the game.
“We’re at the point in season where we have things to look at and see that we should capitalize on opponents,” Huening said.
When the Leopards played the Stags in the preseason, Josh Vega had a game high of five goals and junior driver Bryan Jimenez had four.
Junior goalkeeper Christian Ortiz had 15 saves. Jimenez was out with an injury and did not play in the opener.
“Bryan is a big part of the offense and his contributions to the team make a difference,” Rodriguez said.
“When we played CMS the first time, we were able to come back stronger in the fourth to win and beat them by 3,” Huening said. “In this game, we saw less and less offensive shots and we didn’t have a good fourth quarter.”
The Leopards still have high hopes this season, hoping they will pounce their way to finishing strong.
“We could still come out on top in the end in the finals,” Hopley said. “We could still beat one of the top teams in the conference and take that top spot.”
The Leopards also played at Caltech Wednesday and defeated the Beavers, 17-7.
La Verne took a 6-2 lead over Caltech in the second quarter and continued to dominate the rest of the way, resulting in the win.
“Without a doubt, we have to make sure everyone is on the same page and no one deviates on what we’re trying to accomplish,” Rodriguez said. “We have to limit the amount of turnovers and keep working.”
The team is now 7-11 overall and 1-1 in SCIAC play.
“All around we have a lot to work on and definitely still looking to be competitive in SCIAC,” Huening said.
The Leopards will play the Cal Lutheran Regals at 11 a.m. Saturday at La Verne Aquatics Center.
Jolene Nacapuy can be reached at email@example.com.