The women’s water polo team defeated the Chapman Panthers, 11-7, in their first and only matchup for the season.
The Leopards now advance to 4-3 in conference, placing them comfortably in fourth in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
This game put the Leopards in a good position for the SCIAC postseason tournament at the end of April.
“This was a game making decision, winning today was super important game,” junior center Ilene Guerrero said.
The Leopards were coming off a conference win over Occidental.
After taking the lead, it was evident they got comfortable in their game play and tried to play it safe.
Leopards senior attacker Victoria Mezack expressed her concern in regaining their momentum and converting more of their goals.
“Once Chapman started coming back, they kind of caught us off guard,” Mezack said. “When we get the momentum, we need to take the lead and keep going and run up the score.”
La Verne junior goalie Shelby Garcia was a key player for the Leopards holding it down in the cage – finishing off the game with nine saves.
After a big first quarter, the Leopards had a scoring lull, allowing the Panthers to tie the game going into the second half 4-4.
Guerrero converted a quick goal on the counter attack to give the Leopards the lead to begin the second half.
Regaining the momentum was key if the team was to secure fourth place.
“We are in sole possession of fourth and a loss we took early was to Redlands, so this means that this Saturday’s game is so vitally critical and it’s going to be a big game,” head coach Pat Beemer said.
After the goal early in the third quarter, the Leopards separated themselves away from the Panthers, extending their lead to 8-5 going into the final quarter, where they would finish with a 11-7 win after quick goals by sophomore attacker Jassmine Kezman, Mezack and senior attacker Guarina Garcia.
Garcia recently returned to La Verne after playing at San Jose State for a year and is very happy to be back hard at work with the Leopards.
“It feels pretty good because now I get to be the position of taking girls under my wing and it actually feels really good to give back to a team that watched me evolve into the player I am today,” Garcia said.
Coming off the victory, Mezack set her sights on the next match.
“Our primary focus is on Redlands and Brown. It’s going to be more of a test,” Mezack said.
The women’s water polo team now looks on to their weekend game against SCIAC No. 5 Redlands (4-4) in a battle for fourth place in the conference.
The game will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at the La Verne Aquatic Center at Las Flores Park.
Rex Sample can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.