Giovanna Z. Rinaldo
Editor in Chief
After 110 minutes of play and numerous chances accumulated, the men’s soccer team was held back to a 1-1 tie in their clash against Pomona-Pitzer Wednesday night at Ortmayer Stadium.
“It was (fair),” head coach Trevor Persson said. “You want to win every time, you want to win every game, and it’s heartbreaking when you don’t, but looking back at the game we had multiple opportunities to win compared to them.”
The Leopards kicked off the game with high energy, trying to counter their weakness from previous games and to have more control early on, to facilitate a more dominant posture instead of a reactive one. However, the Sagehens started to slowly pick up their pace and balance the game with higher possession.
La Verne once again struggled with carrying the ball past the midfield toward the attack, having to resort to long balls and crosses that sometimes found freshman forward Johnny DeRueda and other times found no one to link the counterattacks.
While the defense was solid and effective in easily clearing Pomona-Pitzer’s chances once they made their way to the third and fourth quarters of the field, the lack of control in the midfield hurt the Leopards. They were unable to link their defensive and offensive systems and connect through transitions to infiltrate the Sagehens’ space, also allowing the visitors freedom to be versatile in their play making from the back.
“Sometimes we try to force it and then we kick it out,” freshman midfielder Daniel Ortega said. “I think everyone sees that the opposing team just wins in the air and then they’re back at our throats.”
With 12 minutes left in the first half, just as La Verne was starting to build some momentum, Pomona-Pitzer found the back of the net with junior forward Aidan Ferrer. Catching the defense by surprise with a near offside position, Ferrer was left one-on-one with freshman goalkeeper Tristan Polakowski to finish on the right side of the goal.
Left to chase the result once again, the Leopards worked their magic and responded within just a few minutes. From a little over 30 yards, senior forward Andrew Maldonado chipped the Sagehens’ goalkeeper to score a screamer and tie the game in the 36th minute.
“I took the ball away from their center mid, took a touch, shot it and that’s how it happened,” Maldonado said. “I got the idea when I was sitting on the bench, I saw that the goalie was really far out from his line, and then that’s where I got the idea and I just thought to shoot it in the game, just find an open space and shoot it.”
Maldonado’s vision allowed the Leopards to go into halftime with the score even, after five total shots and three on goal, against the Sagehens’ seven and three on goal during the first 45 minutes.
“I felt awesome, a lot of happiness, a lot of emotion coming out from making that goal,” he said.
The ability to quickly respond has been a trend for the Leopards – it happened against Whittier, Redlands and Occidental. The phenomenon did not fail them this time.
“Maybe it’s a combination of the other team relaxing and us kind of waking up,” Persson said. “It shouldn’t take a goal against you to wake up, but all year we’ve scored within five minutes. And I’d like to flip the script and be the one to score, but it seems like we’re always chasing, chasing, chasing and when we get an opportunity to score we miss that chance.”
In the second half, the Leopards came out stronger and slowly built on that throughout the 45 minutes. La Verne kept fighting tooth and nail with Pomona-Pitzer, accumulating good chances and increasing the temperature as the game got closer to going to overtime. With better control and aggressiveness in the midfield, the Leopards saw their efforts translated into more activity up front.
“We’re a second half team. Our guys are all very young, and so in half time we just made a few tactical adjustments, kind of had some key points that we wanted them to look at, and for the most part they came out and responded,” Persson said. “I think we’ve been very good all season in second halves except for one game, against Occidental, but our second half has always been our better half and tonight was no different.”
At the end of the 90 minutes, the Leopards had a total of 10 shots, seven on goal, while the Sagehens had 16, but only four on goal.
“We performed a lot better energy-wise, we were there for the majority of the game, really good energy. I would say our weaknesses is just finishing the easy chances that we had, freshman defender Tyler Avila said. “At the half time speech the coach was just telling us he loved our energy in the first half, to keep it up, we had a good talk at halftime and came out stronger, faster, it seemed to help out.”
After a busy overtime, with both teams playing at a high energy level and creating danger, the draw between the Leopards and the Sagehens prevailed.
“I think it was a fair result for both teams, we both battled all game,” Ortega said. “They weren’t letting out, we weren’t letting out, but I don’t think we want to settle for a tie. Next game we’re looking for a win.”
The Leopards are now 4-4-1 overall and 2-4-1 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
“It’s better than a loss, but I feel like we could’ve won that easily if we had just buried our chances that we had,” Avila said.
Next, the Leopards will face Cal Lutheran on the road Saturday afternoon at William Rolland Stadium.
“Our strength was our energy tonight, we actually came out like we wanted to play,” Persson said. “For 110 minutes we seemed to give it 100 percent the entire time. Our weakness is just our ability to trap and pass in tight spaces and finish in front of the goal.”
Giovanna Z. Rinaldo can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @giozrinaldo.