The women’s soccer team hosted Occidental Wednesday night at Ortmayer Stadium as junior midfielder Juna Bouchekara secured the Leopards’ three points with only 18 seconds remaining in the game.
La Verne now has an overall record of 8-2-3 and a 4-2-3 record in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, landing them in third place.
“I will say I’m not the strongest with my left foot but when you have an open shot you just gotta take it and I took it, and it worked out,” Bouchekara said.
“I feel absolutely fantastic, I think the team really stuck through it until the very end and that’s how we were able to get that last goal,” she said.
La Verne trailed Occidental twice in the game, as freshman forward Dylan Wensley scored the opener for the Tigers in the 27th minute with a placed shot in the top left corner, past Leopard junior goalkeeper Jasmine Valadez from outside of the 18 yard box.
La Verne would respond 10 minutes later after freshman defender Katherine Obregon’s cross met the head of junior forward Andrea Story, who picked out the bottom right corner, keeping it away from senior goalkeeper Dallas Gunny’s reach.
“It felt amazing, I knew that we were already down 1-0 so I knew that we needed to get one back before halftime to get our momentum up,” Story said.
With only eight minutes left in the first half, Occidental senior forward Erin Iacullo tested Valadez with a shot on target right after their takeout, but the La Verne goalkeeper managed to get the save.
“They came out a lot stronger this time and we weren’t ready for it so we came out slow,” Story said. “But once we got our feet underneath us we were able to calm down and get back to our game.”
As the second half commenced it would be Occidental who came out on the offensive first, with the Tigers taking two shots while Valadez picked up both saves in the process before La Verne would respond with a shot of their own.
After back-and-forth play and multiple saves from both goalkeepers, Occidental finally broke the deadlock in the 71st minute. Senior midfielder Molly Callans used the inside of her boot to place Bekele’s set up into the top left corner.
The next eight minutes would be full of attacks from the Leopards’ as senior forward Jessica Hernandez had a header on target that was blocked by Occidental junior goalkeeper Sydney Tomlinson. It was followed by a header from Story that went wide of the goal.
La Verne continued to pressure the Tigers up top and picked up a corner kick in the 79th minute that was slotted away with a header from sophomore defender Alina Cobian after a cross by junior defender Hannah Leone.
“It was a great ball from Hannah and they just left me open in the back so I raised my hand hoping she would see me and go for the back post,” said Cobian. “I was wide open so I headed it hoping it went in, the defender tried clearing it off the line but I think it was already in by that point.”
With the score tied at 2-2 and only 10 minutes remaining in the half, both sides continued to attack in hopes of avoiding an extra time scenario.
Valadez got two saves in that time span for La Verne as she kept the scoreboard even while a header from Occidental senior forward Megan Maher went wide of the goal.
After a scramble in the Tigers’ 18-yard box, Bouchekara would come up big for the Leopards after getting a shot with her left foot, placing the ball into the goalkeepers top left corner and away from reach with only 18 seconds left in the game.
La Verne continue to sit in third place in the SCIAC standings and will next travel to face the second place Sagehens at Pomona-Pitzer Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be a game to watch,” said Leone. “I think we’re both in the top four teams right now so I think it will be an inching game especially coming back from a tie against them, I think it will be a really good fight out there.”
Crystian Mendoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.