After winning only three games and scoring just seven goals last season the La Verne women’s soccer team kicked-off this season with a flying start winning six of their first 8 games and drawing two others.
The Leopards ended with an overall record of 9-6-3 and 27 goals scored, but that was not enough to secure a playoff berth as they finished in fifth place one point behind the Whittier Poets.
Senior forward Jessica Hernandez said that La Verne was predicted to finish in last this season in a preseason poll conducted by the coaches and it motivated her and her team to prove the so-called experts wrong.
“We came out and exceeded everyone else’s expectations. A lot of the teams didn’t expect us to do well at all.” Hernandez said.
“For us to be getting wins and tying difficult teams and come out with not that many losses this season was surprising for other teams, but I knew that with the work ethic that was coming in and all the players that stepped up in different positions we were going to be able to do something good.”
For sophomore defender Alina Cobian the fact that they were in second place for most of the season and so close to making the playoffs is a positive that the team will walk away with.
“There are tons of positives from this year we grew so much from last year being in last place and only winning three games,” Cobian said.
“This year we were in second place most of the season and obviously it’s unfortunate that we didn’t stay in second but we grew as a team in both skill and unity.
The fact that they were so close to clinching a playoff berth, needing only a draw from the last two games, frustrated junior midfielder Ari Dowell.
“We have a large team but a large part of our starting players were hurt and we were playing with a lot of injuries and through a lot of adversity,” Dowell said. “But in the end I think we defeated ourselves.”
Hernandez believes that they have no one to blame but themselves in falling short of a top four finish.
“(I’m) disappointed in my team as whole including myself, because everybody had to deal with the goals that were scored and it was our decision, not just the defenders to allow that to happen and there is really no one to blame but ourselves individually,” Hernandez said. “We can’t cluster a group of girls and push them aside and throw them against the wall. We all did it to ourselves.”
Hernandez said that the program has its best years ahead and is confident that the girls will work, stay dedicated to soccer, weight training, and building a winning tradition in the years to come.
She also helped shift the mentality of how the team approached games.
“This year I made it a thing to talk as if we were already doing well and winning games, we’d go into Wednesdays (game day) and say, ‘when we win,’ ‘when we do this,’ having this mentality became more of a habit, Hernandez said.
“We started to develop into a mentality if we work hard this day, we win this day and forget it and then work hard the next day and continue on for the next game and I think that mentality was really important to continuing to do well this season.”
Junior midfielder Anna Ottley, a key transfer for the Leopards this year with two goals and an assist, is excited to come back and do all she can to help the team make the playoffs.
“I think we all feel like we deserved to be in it this year, so we want to make playoffs even more next year.” Ottley said.
“We all want it really bad and I think because of that we’re going to work really hard to get there.”
Junior goalkeeper Jasmine Valadez, who had the third best save percentage in the league with a .800 said that although she gave it her best and will always give her team her best she can do better.
“Personally there’s always room for improvement and I can’t wait to get back to practicing in the spring,” Valadez said.
Dowell said that the goal is to continue the steady improvement that they have been on year by year.
“I want to make top two for sure, top four is great but I want to make top two and make it to 10 wins next year, since we had nine wins this year.” Dowell said. “Next year if we get to ten wins it will be 11 years since we’ve had 10 wins in a season for women’s soccer and I’m ready to make some history.”
However, she said the thing she is mostly looking forward to next season is, “kicking all the other teams’ asses.”
Jose Brambila can be reached at email@example.com.