Giovanna Z. Rinaldo
Taking advantage of two early goals, the men’s soccer team won a close matchup against the Occidental Tigers, 3-1, Saturday night at Ortmayer Stadium.
After two straight losses, the Leopards got back on track improving on the previous game’s main weakness: finishing. With seven shots against Occidental’s 14, La Verne was superior in efficiency.
“As a team we played really well together, finally played with a lot of fire in our hearts and we came out and got the win,” said senior midfielder Briley Venti, who scored twice.
La Verne and Occidental gave the initial minutes a fast pace, and pressure from both sides denied the teams monopoly of possession or chances.
On the seventh minute, Venti received a ball from senior midfielder Justin Funes to put the Leopards ahead, 1-0.
“Funes was running on the sideline, like we went over and over again in our speech before the game, dribbled down the sideline and crossed it in,” Venti said. “I knew I had to just get to the first post and he played me the ball, and I just had to put it away.”
La Verne’s goal, however, did not discourage the Tigers, who kept trying to find their own. They created danger, especially from their right-hand side, with long balls and crosses, and kept the game busy.
“(It was a) competitive game, close game, but we always seemed to be a step ahead,” senior defender Anton Russell said.
“We feel that we’re very conscious in this league against who we play and it definitely was a competitive game, but we always felt that we had the advantage.”
On the 26th minute, Venti was assisted by junior midfielder Auden Foxe to find the back of the net once again and increase the Leopards’ lead, 2-0.
“(I) feel like I’m helping my teammates out, just trying to do whatever we can to get the win,” Venti said. “I can’t do that without them. They just gave me two easy tap-ins, so (I’m) just trying to help them out.”
“We were up 2-0, but you always gotta think the game the game is 0-0 as a team to say focused and dialed in all times,” Venti added.
Despite the disadvantage, the Tigers’ insisted in a possible comeback until the end.
Ten minutes into the second half, Occidental’s senior forward Grayson Burdon scored unassisted to get his team a confidence boost. La Verne had to play smart to hold on to the lead.
“I think from the start we came out with a little bit more intensity, more aggression,” freshman forward Christopher Wong said.
“We got two early goals which definitely helped turn the table towards us, but I think in the beginning of the second half they came out firing and they scored a goal, which kind of gave them a little energy.”
Approaching the 80th Occidental’s Burdon was sent off with a second yellow card.
With a one-man advantage and four minutes on the clock, Wong still had time to score a screamer goal that gave the match’s final score, 3-1. He received a calculated long pass from senior defender Ferdinand Estrada, to kick it over the goalkeeper and into the goal.
“Our outside right-back Ferdi got it, he looked up, happened to be in an open spot, and he played me an awesome ball, and I was lucky enough to get a good touch. I looked up and just kinda went for it,” Wong said.
After a 4-1 road win against the Caltech Beavers on Wednesday, the Leopards are now 9-3-1 overall and 7-3-1 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“We need to separate ourselves for playoff spot, so (it is a) really good result, complete game. We haven’t played up to our potential in the last two games, (but) we finally put it all together and the result speaks for itself,” Russell said.
La Verne’s next game will be on the road against the Chapman Panthers at 7 p.m. Saturday.