The women’s water polo team finished just short of Virginia Military Institute, 16-10, Saturday. The loss capped off the Leopards’ appearance in the 2019 Convergence Tournament, which saw the team go 2-2 on the weekend.
After falling to Villanova, 12-8, earlier in the day, the team was looking to make adjustments.
“We did a couple personnel shifts so that people would be committed to the counter and at times it looked pretty,” head coach Pat Beemer said. “Our three main focuses are to always be pressing, always be countering through, and always be attacking offensively. When we did this we were pretty successful.”
The Leopards fell behind early in the first quarter on two goal runs, allowing VMI to control the momentum of the game.
“The intensity level (and) the attitude we had, we were obviously tired from the weekend but we always had to keep a positive mindset,” senior goalkeeper Samantha Murillo said.
Early in the second half, the Leopards were trailing 8-3 and answered with a quick goal from junior center Ilene Guerrero to start the second half making the deficit 8-4. Jassmine Kezman answered by converting a penalty shot earned by senior attacker Victoria Mezack, making the score 9-5. The two teams went back and forth trading goals for the rest of the quarter.
The Leopards’ five-woman defense was a key part in the late quarters of the game.
“Always making sure they had a hand up in the right position because it’s kind of tricky when the ball is going back and forth and just trying to get that stop,” Murillo said.
The freshman heavy Leopards trailed by five going into the fourth quarter as they tried to close the gap to bring home the win.
With tensions running high VMI took an ejection, allowing for Kezman to step in and convert the Leopards’ power play to make the score 11-8. But VMI answered with a quick goal from outside to push the lead back to four. This was the beginning of a four-goal run to separate once again from the Leopards and finish the game with a score of 16-10.
The two Saturday losses came on the heels of a successful first day of the tournament on Friday.
The Leopards beat Mckendree, 10-9, in the first game and Grove City, 16-9, in the second.
This season is one for the Leopards to find themselves as a whole after acquiring eight new freshmen to add to the squad.
“Our team is a lot closer with the amount of freshman we got actually,” junior defender Jordan Ehara said. “I’m really excited to spend my last two years with these freshmen, and then have them foster the next freshmen. It gets me excited for the future of the program.”
Looking forward into their season Beemer is focusing on familiarizing the team with the process.
“Our learning curve has been exponential,” Beemer said. “We are just trying to get their collective water polo IQ higher.”
The Leopards lost to St. Francis, 11-10, Tuesday, then went on to tackle two conference opponents Wednesday. They fell to Whittier, 12-8, in the first game and beat Caltech, 14-7, in the second. La Verne is now 3-7 overall and 1-2 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The team returns to action at 4 p.m. Tuesday, hosting Cal Lutheran.
Rex Sample can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.