The men’s water polo team was defeated twice Saturday at the Inland Empire Classic, hosted at Las Flores Park, losing 13-11 in game one against Concordia and 22-11 against Cal Baptist in the second, bringing the Leopards’ overall record to 2-2.
“The Concordia game was a little bit frustrating after the fact because I think we started off very slow,” head coach Pat Beemer said.
“We learned very quickly that not only could we compete with them, but we could put ourselves in a position to win, but we weren’t able to convert.”
Despite losing both games, senior driver, Rey Julian Castillo scored two hat tricks, bringing his tally to 17 in the first four games of the season.
“I’m actually feeling kind of good, the first game I think we could have been a lot closer to winning, but in the second CBU came out completely fresh while it was our second game of the day,” Castillo said.
“They’re a full-funded program. They practice all summer, where we’ve been practicing for the last three weeks. So, for us to have had the first half that we had against them, I think we’re doing pretty good.” he said.
Cal Baptist opened the scoreboard after senior driver, Caleb Rogers, set up senior two-meter specialist, Jonny Lotero.
La Verne senior driver, Josh Vega, equalized the game shortly after with sophomore center defenseman, Rex Sample, getting the assist.
Tied 1-1, Cal Baptist continued to pressure La Verne.
Freshman attacker Christian Britton took a shot on goal before Vega came through with a block.
Shortly after, Lotero drew an exclusion from La Verne sophomore attacker, Joey Sabers.
Junior goalie, Ian Hernandez, then saved a shot from Lancers’ senior two-meter defender, Thomas Henline.
“It’s some tough competition in the beginning of the season, it’s pretty much like a marker for us since we’ll be seeing them again halfway through the season,” Hernandez said.
“So this game should really give us an understanding of where we’re at and how we’re doing,” he said.
Cal Baptist took the lead shortly after that, with junior utility, Tanner Shore, capitalizing on his first opportunity of the game.
Before the quarter ended, the Lancers scored another two goals as freshman utility, Joseph Galgani, set up sophomore two-meter specialist, Matthew Diacono, before Rogers scored his own, making it 4-1.
As the second quarter started, Cal Baptist’s Shore won the swim off once again, and ultimately went four-for-four in the game.
The Lancers continued attacking, with senior driver, Luke Schuler, hitting the post before La Verne’s coach, Beemer, called a full time-out.
After a talk with his players, Beemer’s team returned to play on the offensive and junior attacker, Jason Russum, scored after an assist from Castillo.
Cal Baptist went on to score on their take-out 12 seconds later, as Shore assisted junior attacker, Royce Daniel Laverne.
Shore made it 6-2 with an assist from Schuler, before junior center, Mike Meza, managed to get one back for La Verne.
It was followed by a power play, which resulted in a goal for senior attacker, Jeremy Rocha.
“I definitely think we were making it more challenging for ourselves because we weren’t making ourselves available to our teammates. So the passes, shots and defense took a lot more energy,” Rocha said.
“Moving forward we need to learn how to place our bodies in better positions to be available to our teammates,” he said.
This was the closest La Verne got to Cal Baptist, as the Lancers’ offense continued to drive mercilessly at the Leopards.
Cal Baptist continued attacking, junior attacker Kyle Christian getting, on the scoreboard before Rogers extended on the lead, making it an 8-4 game that saw La Verne’s chances start to fade away.
Despite Leopards Russum, Meza and Castillo managing to score three goals apiece, the No. 15 Lancers went on to beat La Verne 22-11 in the second game of the IEC.
“I call this a marker game, so we played them the first time and we saw the result wasn’t great, but now we have another chance at them in a couple of weeks and we’re going to measure our progress based on the next result,” Beemer said.
“The D-I’s and the D-II’s train all summer long and we’ve been at it for three weeks, so the comparative level of conditioning was obvious in this game,” he said.
Leading La Verne’s offense, Castillo has scored a minimum of three goals in his first four games.
Goalie Hernandez finished the game with nine saves.
“These guys have been working their butts off and it’s a good solid crew, but we don’t have a ton of depth and we can only go four deep on the bench when these guys are going six-for-six,” Beemer said.
La Verne will start Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play Wednesday against Chapman, as they hit the road to face their opponents at 7 p.m. at the Allred Aquatics Center in Orange.
Crystian Mendoza can be reached at email@example.com.