Men’s soccer started out the season strong with a 4-1 victory over St. Katherine on Sunday.
After suffering a disappointing end to the season last year, finishing with an 8-8-2 overall record, the men’s soccer team looks ready to bounce back this season.
“These guys have a burning desire to win every game and that’s what we want,” head coach Trevor Persson said.
Sophomore midfielder Daniel Ortega was a standout player in the team’s dominating 4-1 victory, and got the Leopards on the board early.
Just over seven minutes into the game. Ortega scored the first goal of the evening on a penalty kick following a foul on the Firebirds.
“I just went straight for the ball, I knew I had to pick it up to open up the scoring” Ortega said.
Freshman midfielder David Robinson scored the second goal off a header that was assisted by Ortega, and senior forward Christopher Cervantes netted the third off of a pass from junior midfielder Victor Romero.
The Leopards were able to maintain their defensive pressure throughout the first half and did not give up a goal, giving them a 3-0 lead at halftime.
Later in the second half, sophomore defender Tyler Avila scored from 20 yards out, bringing the Leopards’ lead to 4-0.
St. Katherine got on the board late in the second half, but it was too little too late for the Firebirds. La Verne out-shot the Firebirds 15-3 in the game and controlled the ball.
“I’ve always thought that if you’re good enough then you’re good enough,” Ortega said.
“A lot of the guys are young but they’ve come in and they’ve shown that they’re ready and [we] have a lot of trust in them.”
Last season the team barely missed out on the playoffs, which has been a constant reminder for improvement.
“We always expect to finish within the top four. Finishing in the top four makes the conference tournament,” Persson said.
“We want to have a season goal of finishing first, second, third or fourth it doesn’t matter – we just want to get in there.”
For many of the players, missing out on playoffs was a difficult pill to swallow but helped identify their weaknesses and motivate them to work harder heading further into the season.
“[Last season] was honestly pretty bad, because we ended up finishing in fifth place, so we just missed the playoffs,” junior defender James Metoyer said.
“We had a few games where we should have won and we didn’t, a few bad calls that didn’t go our way and we weren’t scoring enough.”
The team features nearly 10 new players on the roster and many feel that they have moved past the problems plaguing them from last season.
“This year we’re looking to change it all around,” Metoyer said. “We’ve got a lot of new freshmen, a different formation we’ve been using as well. It’s been pretty good to start.”
Junior forward Christopher Wong said that at times last season they relied on specific players too often.
“Everyone puts in the same amount of work, our whole team is contributing to the end result,” he said.
Following the win the team’s confidence remains high. Metoyer said that he feels like this group is strong enough to take any opponent.
The Leopards continue action at 11 a.m. Saturday as they host the Sagehens of Pomona-Pitzer.
Joey Matsuzawa can be reached at email@example.com.