The women’s water polo team wrapped up its best season in program’s history by finishing in second place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship Tournament.
“We wanted the outcome to be different, but it’s still an amazing accomplishment for the program,” junior attacker Ardelle Aquino said. “It was a little bittersweet, but I think it’s driving the entire team to want to place even better next year.”
After finishing the regular season with an 8-3 record, the Leopards headed into the postseason ready to dominate.
La Verne faced Redlands Friday at Thompson Aquatic Center and won 13-9, advancing them to the semifinals.
The Leopards stayed on top, leading 4-1 in the first quarter, but the Bulldogs got within one in the second.
In the third, La Verne came out firing with eight unanswered goals to take an 11-3 lead. The Bulldogs rallied to wear out the Leopards, however, their efforts were not enough.
Freshman attacker Guarina Garcia led the team in goals with five and junior center Megan Little followed with four.
“It felt incredibly awesome,” Garcia said. “The energy that we had was out of this world and could barely believe it was happening.”
The following day, the Leopards were back at it in the semifinals against the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens.
It was a rematch to look forward to because the Sagehens snapped the Leopards undefeated win streak at home and in the conference.
“Losing to Pomona the first time was very disappointing for us because we knew we had the talent to beat them,” Randall said. “Going into the second game, we were all very calm and understood what needed to be done. We knew how they played and knew we could beat them, it was just up to us to play at the high level that we knew we could.”
The Sagehens did not go without a fight and the Leopards battled it out, coming out with the 10-9 win.
The game remained fairly close as both teams fought for the lead.
With the game tied 9-9, junior utility Stephanie Rosero scored which would be the game-winning goal with 1:46 left in the game, sending La Verne to the SCIAC championships.
La Verne faced reigning champions, the Whittier Poets, in a duel for the trophy and both teams kept it close. However, the Poets came out from behind to win, 17-12 Sunday at Thompson Aquatic Center.
The Leopards kept their intensity high, but that backfired when it turned too physical, costing them fouls and ejections.
“Our defense this season, but especially in this weekends tournament, was what made us so successful,” Randall said. “We also had a lot of offensive players that were not afraid to take shots. Sometimes we would not finish those shots and that is when the other team would capitalize.”
La Verne got as close as two in the second quarter, but were not able to have a dominant lead for the rest of the game.
With mistakes made by the Leopards, the Poets took advantage and capitalized and scored goals to extend their lead and sealed the win for back-to-back championships.
La Verne had a chance to earn their first-ever conference championship and the SCIAC’s automatic berth to the NCAA Championship tournament, but the team is still happy of how far they have come.
“It’s bittersweet, now that the season is over. This team was so rare and special so I’m happy I got to be apart of building it up,” Randall said. “I know that they have such a bright future, so I wish I could be apart of that. But I’m still very happy for all my teammates and coaches.”
The team made history by snapping a 10-year losing streak against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Redlands.
They also defeated four Division I teams this season, while notching in eight total wins, a record high for the program.
The team finished the season 18-6 overall and 8-3 in SCIAC.
Although it is bittersweet, the program has helped teach Aquino to want something bigger than herself and is ready for what is in store for next season.
“This gave us a push to want to win the SCIAC next season,” Aquino said.
Jolene Nacapuy can be reached at email@example.com.