La Verne men’s water polo suffered a tough defeat to Redlands after a late surge was cut short by the Bulldogs on Saturday at the La Verne Aquatic Center.
Two late penalties for La Verne was not enough to overcome the deficit and fell, 10-9, to the visitors.
“We lost a little bit of our focus in the third quarter,” head coach Pat Beemer said. “Had we maintained a bit more composure, I think we could have flipped the result.”
Both teams started off strong with back-and-forth play early in the game. The Leopards got on the scoreboard first after two minutes thanks to freshman attacker Myles Storms.
Redlands responded immediately after when sophomore attacker Chris Frejlach assisted senior center Ilan Dayan.
Storms put the Leopards back in the driving set when he put away his second goal after four minutes.
Junior utility player Kyle Jackson equalized once again for the Bulldogs as time expired with the score even at 2-2 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was the La Verne show after the Leopards corrected their defensive errors that made them prone to the counter and hit Redlands at full speed when attacking.
The Leopards gained their biggest lead of the game scoring three unanswered goals and took a 5-3 lead into halftime.
“Coach kept telling us to put away our opportunities and to keep countering while making sure we didn’t get countered back,” junior utility player Charles Ortega said.
The third quarter sparked a new fire into Redlands because they came out more aggressive and physical.
However, their aggressive nature became problematic as regular stops for trash talk and fouls impeded the flow of the game.
‘“I think every team tries to put you off or get in your head but it’s just part of the game,” attacking player Dario Mariani said.
After Mariani finished off a great cross by Storms to open the scoring after three minutes, the Bulldogs changed their tactics that saw them press each La Verne player extremely tight while on defense and spreading out for quick and completable passes on offense.
Redlands put together a master-class show of their own after conceding, scoring four goals in part due to the tactical switch.
Junior attacker Spencer Allen began the four goal response after a minute of play with senior attacker Grant Curry adding the Bulldogs’ second on the next possession.
With 4:42 left in the third, junior utility player Kyle Jackson notched a goal to even the score at 6-6.
The four-goal rout was completed with 45 seconds left in the third when junior attacker Carter Kerwin fired one past the Leopard goalkeeper Ian Hernandez to give the Bulldogs the go-ahead goal before the end of the period.
The fourth quarter saw the Leopards hit their second wind and gave the Bulldogs a run for their money the entire way.
Redlands turned their one-goal lead into two when Allen sent a beautifully weighted pass to junior center Cooper Krause on their first possession and Krause tucked it home.
La Verne fired back a minute later as junior defender Rex Sample hammered his shot into the bottom corner giving the Leopards a glimmer of hope.
The Bulldogs looked to kill off the game after conceding. On their next possession, after a sloppy play in the middle of the pool, senior center Billy Clifford was left one-on-one with the Leopards’ Hernandez and slotted it just underneath his arm to give the Bulldogs a two-goal cushion again.
Allen made it 10-7 for the Bulldogs with just 2:40 left when La Verne threw everything they could at Redlands.
The Leopards aggression was enough to earn them two penalties in the final minute, but not enough to earn them the victory with the final score 10-9 to Redlands.
“It was a close game and we put a lot of work into it. We just need to stay leveled and handle adversity better,” utility player Jason Soo Hoo said.
In their second game on Saturday, La Verne took on No. 16 Pomona-Pitzer but fell to the Sagehens 20-5. On Wednesday the Leopards took on Cal Lutheran and lost a close game, 13-11.
The Leopards will be back in action at 11 a.m. Saturday when they travel to Whittier.
Andrew Alonzo can be reached at email@example.com.