The women’s water polo team finished its regular season with a 14-8 loss to the Whittier Poets Saturday at the La Verne Aquatics Center.
With the loss, the Leopards extend their losing streak to three, and fall to 5-13 overall and 3-5 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“It’s disappointing when we get an L on the score sheet. We lost to a really good team, but I think we did better in the second half of the game,” head coach William Rodriguez said.
The Poets were able to get on the board first with a shot by junior utility Cynthia Castillo with the assist of sophomore attacker Isabella Gorrocino, 1-0.
They managed to take a 2-0 lead, after a Leopard turnover, as freshman defender Angelica Hernandez found an opening past La Verne freshman goalkeeper Hailey Westwood.
“Performance wise we needed more urgency. Our 6-on-5 plays and penalty shots were better, but we had a lot of turnovers on regular 6-on-6 offense,” senior utility Jacqueline Rojas said. “I contributed to a lot of those turn overs which was disappointing, but hopefully this upcoming SCIAC weekend we can clean things up as a team.”
The Leopards answered back five minutes into the quarter. Senior defender Maddie Lovrensky assisted junior center Catie Tuning, as she had an open shot when the Poets’ goalkeeper left the goal wide open.
Whittier answered right back with two back-to-back-goals midway through the quarter to extend the lead, 4-1.
With 2:08 on the clock, sophomore center Megan Little cut the deficit in half with the assist of Tuning, 4-2.
Before the quarter ended, the Poets were able to get another shot up and headed into the second with a 5-2 lead over the Leopards.
The Poets got to a quick start in the second quarter and scored three more goals.
With a penalty call, Whittier got a free shot by Gorrocino, making the score 8-2.
“We did not come out with the intensity that we needed,” Rojas said. “By the time we started playing better it was much too late. We dug ourselves a deep hole and could not get out.”
Midway through the second, the Leopards finally found a shot, as junior utility Emily Randall scored, 8-3.
Though with three seconds left in the half, sophomore attacker Hannah Ellett scored a goal for Whittier, as they took at 9-3 lead heading into the half.
“I don’t know if it’s warm ups, bad passes, but their counter attacks are fantastic, so in the first half that’s pretty much what happened,” Rodriguez said.
La Verne kicked it up defensively, but at the same time struggled offensively, as both teams could not score. A rough first half allowed the Leopards to fall early.
With 3:28 on the clock, sophomore attacker Arlin De La Mora was able to get past Westwood, as the Poets continued to lead, 10-3.
Westwood had a total of six saves in the game.
Whittier was able to score one more time, while on the other hand, La Verne could not get a shot in the third and trailed, 11-3, heading into the final quarter.
“I think as a team we have our best games when we are all on the same page and communicate in the water,” junior attacker Lora Marquez-Salgado said.
The Leopards scored early in the fourth, as senior utility Amber Tardif found an opening in the goal, 11-4.
Then with constant turnovers by the Poets, Tardif was able to score once again with the assist of Marquez-Salgado, 11-5.
Tardif and Tuning finished with two goals, leading the Leopards.
Midway through the fourth, the sophomore defender Jenel Rivera managed to put in back-to-back shots for the Poets, leading the Leopards, 13-5.
With 2:56 left in regulation, senior attacker Kimberly Lopez scored with the assist of Tuning, but was quickly answered back by the Poets, as they still led, 14-6.
The Leopards answered back two more times in the last two minutes.
Freshman defender Susie Curiel and Marquez-Salgado scored the last two goals, but it was not enough, as La Verne fell, 14-8.
“Our communication wasn’t there in the beginning and it was a tough couple of quarters,” Marquez-Salgado said.
This season, the team has accomplished more than they thought, despite not winning all their games.
“Overall, this season was much better than the last in a number of ways. As a team, we got along a lot better and were much more organized in the water. We beat teams we hadn’t beaten in years, which shows the other teams in conference that the La Verne Leopards are a team to be reckoned with,” Rojas said.
“On a personal level, I buckled down more this season and it was a good learning experience to end my athletic career,” she said.
“Coach Willo and Erika were probably my favorite duo for coaches in my eight years of playing water polo. Sometimes I wish I had one more year, but I’ve had my fun and I hope the underclass players appreciate the opportunities to come.”
Rojas, Lopez, Lovrensky, Sarah Jefferis and Carly Ashen were honored in a brief ceremony before the game.
“I will miss being a part of that type of family. Suffering from swimming in T-shirts with the same group of girls for 4-5 hours a day in the chlorine that leaves our toasted skin oh-so-dry is an unforgettable experience,” Rojas said.
“Seeing this water polo family grow as individuals and players is a rewarding one. We’re also probably in the best shape of our lives and I’m not sure who wouldn’t miss that. The beautiful thing about being a part of this family is that I can apply what I’ve learned with them to my future families and more.”
With the postseason coming up, there are a few things that the team needs to work on, including possession power plays and putting pressure on their opponents.
“For the postseason, we need to improve on our 6-on-5 opportunities because we still struggle to put them away and it hurts us in the end,” Marquez-Salgado said. “We also need to become more aware of the other teams counter attacks and driving offense. We get stuck guarding one player and don’t focus on what’s going on behind us.”
The Leopards will play the Whittier Poets 4 p.m. Friday at Haldeman Pool in the SCIAC Championship tournament.
“When you look at the bigger picture, we got a couple of wins and nobody expected us,” Rodriguez said.
“We’re ranked fifth in the country and it’s definitely the best record this program has had in the past few years or so and it’s a step moving into the right direction,” he said.
Jolene Nacapuy can be reached at email@example.com.