The Leopards dominated Occidental in their final conference game of the season Saturday, winning the match, 16-6, on Senior Day.
They currently hold fourth in the league as the Leopards advance to postseason play.
The Leopards celebrated their victory by honoring seniors Victoria Mezack, Samantha Murillo, Yuri Ujifusa, and Guarina Garcia, in their final college water polo game.
The start of the game was very slow, as the Leopards missed five open opportunities early in the first quarter.
The Leopards were able to find the back of the net last in the first quarter, but the scoring didn’t stop there.
La Verne held Occidental to zero goals in the first half allowing three goals early in the third quarter making it 6-3, La Verne.
The Leopards went on to score ten times in the final two quarters to come out on top.
Sophomore attacker Jassmine Kezman led the Leopards with five goals, two assists, and two steals. Senior teammate Garcia made sure she was going out with a bang by also converting of five goals and three steals.
“The main focus quite frankly was to stay focused, because the girls went all out to decorate and support our seniors and my concern was that we look more at our seniors and not our opponent,” head coach Pat Beemer said.
It was evident that in the first quarter the Leopards’ focus was lacking, but they were able to regain focus and come out on top.
The main focus for Saturday’s game was to execute their plays and refine them before taking on No. 1 seeded Pomona-Pitzer in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference postseason tournament Friday.
“We wanted to put in all of our plays and defense together before we encounter Pomona next week, so definitely this game was a warm up for next week,” Garcia said.
This will be the first appearance for the Leopards since the SCIAC postseason moved to a four-team tournament.
Pomona-Pitzer could create a speed bump for La Verne due to how heavy they press the ball and how fast they can jump on the counter.
“I think we are going to adjust our offense to be a lot of movement, because we know this team likes to hold and they’re very grabby,” Mezack said. “I think by having an offense where we are moving and driving a lot will bring a lot of man ups.”
As the Leopards prepare for the semifinal game against Pomona-Pitzer, they are thinking not only about their offense but they are honing in on their defense.
“Defensively I feel like we should start with a press high in the passing lane, so we can deny the ball and get them more tired just as they would do to us,” Kezman said.
Another big factor for the Leopards will be their ability to convert their power plays and stop any of Pomona-Pitzer’s attempts.
“In the semifinal game it is a big deal, it will probably be won or lost on how well you do on both 6-on-5 and 5-on-6 opportunities” Beemer said.
After a long season, the team’s competing in the tournament know the rest of the competition well and are quick to learn each others tendencies, so the Leopards are ready to switch their plays up to keep the advantage.
“The teams have been cracking down on the plays we have been running, we are probably going to draw man up plays just to make sure that could be one of the strongest assets in the game,” said Mezack.
The Leopards take on Pomona-Pitzer at 7 p.m. Friday at Haldeman Pool in Claremont.
Rex Sample can be reached at email@example.com.