Alexandra de Leon
After losing their season-opener Sept. 1 against Vanguard, the Leopards played a defensive first half and defeated the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, 3-1, Friday at Ortmayer Stadium.
La Verne is 1-1 overall and 0-0 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
Sophomore forward Jessica Hernandez scored the first goal of the game in the 16th minute on an assist by senior midfielder Kelsea Varner.
Two minutes later, sophomore defender Cambria Smith scored her first collegiate goal on a shot from 30 yards out that soared in over the keepers head and right through her hands.
Scoring opportunities are few as a defender, but Smith managed to take advantage of the opportunity, took the shot and score, putting La Verne up, 2-0.
“I was wide open so I saw a lot of space and thought I just had one,” Smith said.
La Verne head coach Lauryn Pehanich was stunned and did not see the goal coming.
“I saw her wind up, I saw the goalkeeper out of position and she had a great strike and obviously she’s very happy with it, as are we,” Pehanich said.
The Leopards scored their last goal just seconds before the first half was over.
Varner chipped the ball in to the center for senior forward Tatiana Raygoza who was able to shoot it around the keeper, putting the Leopards up, 3-0.
“It felt good,” Raygoza said. “It’s been something I’ve been struggling as a forward in terms of getting it to the goal, it was very rewarding since it is something I’ve been trying to work on.”
Santa Cruz caught up with the Leopards in the second half with their first and only goal in the 52nd minute by Megan Carey.
Junior Leopards goalkeeper, Heather Seman had a total of two saves during the game.
The Leopards defense stood strong and managed to protect the score line the rest of the second half against the Banana Slugs.
“I felt like we came out as two different teams,” Pehanich said. “I felt our first-half team played really well and stuck to the plan of what we were asking them to do. They came out the second half and Santa Cruz picked up the pace and we didn’t hang with them.”
Hernandez was given a yellow card for fouling the Banana Slugs in the second half and the Leopards had a total of 10 fouls.
“The main thing we just need to work on is communicating, just talking to each other to stay in our shape, and just focusing on staying with the plan the coaches give us and getting it perfect so that we can go forward and we can defend teams,” Seman said.
This season the Leopards hope to win SCIAC and make it to the finals.
The Leopards take on the Banana Slugs again Friday at 12:30 p.m. in Santa Cruz and expect to come back and learn from several mistakes made.
Alexandra de Leon can be reached at email@example.com.