Giovanna Z. Rinaldo
Editor in Chief
After holding Chapman scoreless for almost 80 minutes, the men’s soccer team conceded a late goal that gave the Panthers a 1-0 win Wednesday night at Ortmayer Stadium.
Despite the Leopards’ solid defensive efforts and sequential equalizing chances after the goal, they were unable to avoid a second defeat in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
The Panthers started the game playing aggressively and were able to maintain the level of intensity throughout most of the first half.
Dominating the midfield and having high possession allowed them to build plays from the back and infiltrate the third and fourth quarters of the field, as well as stop the Leopards’ attempts at linking their defense to the attack.
Although a focus on defense and a reactive posture to Chapman’s superiority with possession was logical, La Verne got stuck in a compact defensive system unable to make transitions and create offensive plays.
“The plan was definitely to let them play with it (the ball) in the back,” senior defender Anton Russell said.
“If they played in the back there it couldn’t hurt us, and the point was just to wait for them to send it forward and get them to play the long ball, which is what we did. So that was the game plan, let them have a little more possession and get them on the counter,” he said.
At the end of the first half, the Leopards had one shot, on goal, against the Panthers’ nine total and three on goal. Despite the high volume of play, the visiting team lacked effectiveness in finalizing their chances and translating them into the scoreboard, leaving the game open.
“It’s tough because they are a very aggressive team, they want to win every ball so they’re fighting for every ball,” sophomore forward Jack Kolodge said. “They play as hard as they can every play, so you got to want it as bad as them if you want to compete.”
La Verne started off the second half with a scare, as Chapman got close to the goal within the first minute.
They tested their chances again and hit the crossbar 11 minutes in, and were starting to improve on the ability to turn superiority into danger plays. But it was only in the 78th minute, as the Leopards had just missed their clearest chance yet, that the Panthers broke the game open.
With a header, Chapman senior defender Kannon Kuhn finalized the corner by sophomore defender Jarod Matteoni to score the sole goal of the match.
Following the goal were La Verne’s best chances and the possibility of going to overtime was not far from happening.
The Leopards even managed to reach the back of the net, but the goal was disallowed due to a foul in the beginning of the play. With only one minute left on the clock, La Verne had two clear goal-scoring opportunities, but were unable to convert them.
“I’d say we started off slow, we didn’t get our energy up until the second half,” said senior midfielder Javier Jasso. “It made it hard because they had a lot of energy, they came off from the beginning to the end.”
Jasso added that the awakening after conceding a goal can be taken as a positive, as well as their attitude to pursue a good result even with little time left.
“We liked to cut passing lanes for the most part,” Kolodge said. “We wanted to take off angles, hold our own position, and we had the chance. We did want to get the counter, we wanted to have more possession, we couldn’t manage that this game but I thought we did well at the end on the counters.”
Russell said that it was a great defensive performance for the Leopards, although the offense struggled until the second half.
“They (Chapman) finished their one legit chance, and that was the difference, just one mental break on defense with a young back line. Two starters out, Ferdi and Alex, so the young guys had to step up,” he said.
Russell added that the clash between La Verne’s young midfield and Chapman’s experienced one was the most challenging aspect, and the Panthers’ dominance of the center had a high cost to the Leopards.
Despite the defeat, the defender also said that experience in the back line and minutes for freshmen are a positive.
“It was pretty much a solid defensive effort all night. We just went a little lapse, and we had four legit chances and they only had one. It could have really gone our way, so it’s definitely a positive for us,” Russell said.
The Leopards will face Redlands next in SCIAC play, going on the road to meet the Bulldogs on Saturday night at Farquhar Field. They are now 3-0-3 overall and 1-0-2 in conference play.