The women’s soccer team remains undefeated after beating Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 2-1, Wednesday afternoon at Ortmayer Stadium in its first game of Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
This was the Leopards’ fourth consecutive win.
“From here on out, it’s only one way. We’ve got a long season ahead of us,” head coach Lauryn Pehanich said.
“I think defensively we’ve finally found a groove into what the expectations are and now for us it’s, can we attack? And when we attack, can we be effective in the way that we’re attacking?” she said.
La Verne dominated possession early in the first half and held the Athenas off for the majority of it.
Senior forward Jessica Hernandez continued to make her presence known.
Athenas goalkeeper Claire Hamson came to the edge of her 18-yard box and spilled the ball to an alert Hernandez, whose quick thinking shot was deflected wide for a corner kick.
The Leopards continued pressuring CMS’ defense minutes later, this time with senior forward Lauran Redding, who carried the ball all the way into the 18-yard box from the half, before her shot went sailing over the crossbar.
The Athenas responded minutes later, after a poor clearance from La Verne sophomore goalkeeper Hanien Samara left an opposing striker with an open goal. Samara came out full force and quickly made up for her mistake with a great save, keeping the score 0-0.
“I think whenever you have a lapse in judgment you just have to think about the next play and recover from it,” Samara said.
“I think everyone, including goalkeepers, makes mistakes and just making sure that we do our job after the fact is important. I’m glad we didn’t get a goal taken in on that play and that I did my job by correcting my mistake,” she said.
The game remained scoreless going into the half, with La Verne having three shots on goal while Claremont had two.
As the second half commenced, it only took three minutes for the Leopards to create another chance at goal as Hernandez took her shot from outside of the 18-yard box, keeping Hamson on her toes.
In the 61st minute a drive down the right wing from junior midfielder Juna Bouchekara ended in a cross that led to a handball in the box, resulting in a penalty for La Verne.
Bouchekara stepped up for the Leopards, but her shot went wide of the bottom left corner, keeping the score at 0-0 with 30 minutes left in the half.
“I just got a little nervous, and the nerves got the best of me so I accidentally hit it a little too wide as I was going for that left corner,” Bouchekara said.
She added that the pressure she felt afterward motivated her to score the opener, which she did less than five minutes later after an assist from Hernandez.
“I felt absolutely great, I was so happy that we were able to lead up 1-0 without going into overtime like we have been in all the other games,” Bouchekara said.
“Unfortunately they got that goal on us afterwards, but we came back strong again,” she said.
La Verne’s advantage was short lived as Athenas freshman midfielder Aarthi Namasivayam equalized the game after carrying the ball into the 18-yard box.
Striking the ball with her left foot towards the right of the goal, it went past Samara, whose diving efforts were close, but not enough to stop the shot.
With the score 1-1, La Verne continued to push up as their defense focused on getting possession back to keep attacking.
Only four minutes after conceding, the Leopards managed to take the lead again.
Redding ran the ball down the right wing before looking up to see few options, leaving her to go for goal from a difficult angle that she managed to tuck away in the top left corner, out of reach from Hamson who was left defenseless.
“Basically, I got the run and as I looked up I didn’t see anybody in there,” Redding said.
“I didn’t want to just make this run for nothing, so I was like you know what, I’m just going to go for that back corner and I saw it. I didn’t think I was going to make it to be honest, but I had a beautiful shot and it went in and I was really pleased with how I just kept going, I’m glad I shot it,” she said.
With all but 13 minutes left in the game, senior CMS midfielder Sydney Smith received a cautionary yellow card after making contact with Samara while she had possession.
Hernandez had two more chances at goal in the final ten minutes of the game, but was unable to convert as La Verne managed to hold off the Athenas for the remainder of the game, winning 2-1.
“I think I actually got really good runs going, I think our defense and our mids were really looking out for the forwards and their movement,” Hernandez said.
“I thought my movement was good, I did have opportunities where I could have finished but the ball was maybe a little bit too in front of me or I just didn’t get the shot that I wanted. But you know, you keep on shooting, you can’t make all of them, but I’ll make them next time,” she said.
La Verne will next travel to face the Occidental Tigers 11 a.m. Saturday at Grass Field, before hitting the road again Wednesday to face Pomona-Pitzer.
Crystian Mendoza can be reached at email@example.com.