Emotions ran high in Ortmayer Stadium Wednesday as the women’s soccer team battled Chapman in its final game of the season, but fell short in a 3-0 shutout.
Since the game was also senior night for the Leopards, the team held a pre-game ceremony to honor the seniors’ collegiate soccer careers.
Head coach Lauryn Pehanich started all eight of her seniors, alongside junior defender Alina Cobian, sophomore defender Katherine Obregon and freshman defender Kaylee DeMarchi
“I told the girls in the locker room that it’s all about making sure that we honor the seniors,” Pehanich said. “The best way we can do that is by going out and performing the best to our ability.”
The game immediately started with a corner kick from senior midfielder Shelby Brown of the Panthers, in which La Verne drew a foul, resulting in Brown scoring a goal to give them a 1-0 with 42:53 left in the first half.
Throughout the first half, Chapman played aggressively, pushing the ball into Leopard territory every few possessions, while La Verne was able to shut down most of their attacks.
Senior goalkeeper Jasmine Valadez cleaned up her game and saved two balls. The pressure from ULV’s defense caused wide left misses from junior fielder Ely Aronson and freshman midfielder Jessie Roux.
By the 17-minute mark, both teams settled into their game plans following their first round of substitutions for each team.
“We were more playing for the love of the game and playing for each other,” senior midfielder Ari Dowell said. “This team is truly a family and full of sisters. It was more one last time to play with a group of people that I’ve come to love and don’t ever want to be without.”
After slowing down Chapman’s aggressive attacks, the first half concluded with a corner kick from senior midfielder Lindsay Earl that drained the clock out, with the Panthers up 1-0 at halftime.
La Verne started off more aggressively in the second half, shooting shot four times within a span of 10 minutes.
The first came in the 46th minute, where senior midfielder Juna Bouchekara dribbled up the corner and past two Chapman defenders but her shot was too high and missed wide left.
Six minutes later, sophomore forward Emmie Farber beat freshman defender Ana Hernandez after dribbling past her and kicked it to the far right corner, out of reach for Valadez. The Panthers added a point to their lead to make it 2-0 with 52:20 left in the game.
Within a span of three minutes, the Leopards fought back aggressively by shooting three more times but the shots were all blocked.
In the 53rd minute, Bouchekara’s second shot of the game nearly passed freshman goalkeeper Kelsey Bland but she was able to save it at the last second.
Seven seconds later, senior midfielder Cambria Smith kicked it from distance and almost threw Bland off until she dove and saved another shot on goal.
Senior midfielder Ana Ottley shot it at the 56th minute, but the ball went right to Bland.
“I don’t think we ever gave up. Even though we got scored on in the first three minutes, the energy stayed high and we still kept pressing,” Bouchekara said. “Everyone just gave it all on the field.”
Despite La Verne’s aggressive pressure, the Panthers were able to use their quick passing game to attack the middle of the Leopard defense into their territory. After La Verne committed a foul in the 71st minute, Aronson scored the Panthers’ final goal to seal the 3-0 victory.
La Verne finished the season with a 2-11-3 overall record and Chapman improved to 9-9 for the year.
Cobian turned her attention to next season for her senior year, looking to become the new vocal leader for the Leopards.
“When I came in as a freshman, I was very nervous and just came in looking for leadership and that’s what upperclassman above me taught me,” Cobian said.
“Now I’m a junior, one of the starters, so I just feel like I have to continue to push my other teammates and to show them the kind of program we lead.”
With a very young team, the Leopards finished the year with a conference record of 2-10-2.
With most of the roster coming back, the team should be strong in the coming years as the players gain experience and play more games together.
Nicolette Rojo can be reached at email@example.com.