The La Verne men’s water polo team faced off in a scrimmage on Saturday against the Grossmont Griffins where the Leopards dominated the Griffins for four periods and finished the match with a comfortable 20-9 victory.
“We wanted to go into this game and work hard,” said senior utility player Guillermo Ocacio. “Over the last two weeks we’ve been building a really good chemistry with one another.”
The Leopards took a resounding 3-1 lead early into the first period thanks to link-up plays among senior utility player Charles Ortega, sophomore attacker Myles Storms.
Ortega netted twice early on and before Grossmont’s sophomore defender Wilson Arth handed the Griffins a lifeline midway through the first period.
The Leopards suffered from miscommunication and sloppy fouls at times which allowed Grossmont to take full advantage toward the end of the first period.
While Storms was able to launch the Leopards 5-3 ahead due to a deflected shot late in the first period, Grossmont battled until the final second to secure a 5-5 tied score going into the second period.
A shaky and nervous defense was given new life during the interval as the Leopards came back as a whole different team.
The Leopards switched to a 1-on-1 defensive style and pressed the opposition as far as they could up the pool.
The offense was smooth in transition from defense. The defense plugged up all the gaps the Grossmont had been exploiting in the first period.
“I want the players to be committing to the press and getting up in offenders face to jump-start our transition play,” said ULV head coach Pat Beemer. “When all seven guys in the water are on that same page, [the press] is effective.”
The Leopards tucked seven goals past Grossmont while the Griffins failed to create any sort of chance on offense in the second period.
After two minutes of play, a ULV foul gave Grossmont a penalty, but senior goalkeeper Mason Fox stuffed the Griffin attack twice, saving the follow up shot also.
Leopards senior defender Rex Sample also made his imposing presence known around the pool as he intercepted two passes and assisted in a goal.
“Coach told us to keep pushing our counter-attacks and we will find a way,” freshman utility player Alam Chang Barnubbo said. “We can’t lose our focus, no matter what the scoreline says.”
The Leopards took a commanding 12-5 lead coming into the third period.
The Leopards did not take their foot off the gas and continued to press the Griffins 1-on-1 to force a physical game.
Ortega drilled his effort between the Grossmont defense and keeper to give La Verne their first goal of the third period.
Sophomore attacker Christian Gonzalez then hurled a thunder-bolt just outside the penalty area of the pool to the top left corner of the net.
The Leopards’ offense was able to finish third period with a tight grasp on the game.
The Leopards started the final period with a 17-6 lead. The constant press from La Verne had not let up since the beginning of the second period.
Ortega bagged his sixth goal of the game while senior attacker Joey Sabers continued to cause problems on both sides of the ball for the Griffins. It was not until ULV converted a penalty shot that Grossmont’s offense had finally woken up.
Though too little and too late from Grossmont. The Griffins were able to salvage three goals before time expired, with La Verne running away with the 20-9 victory.
“Coach Beemer has always highlighted teamwork so for us to be able to rally and shut down a team together feels great,” says junior goalkeeper Brian Wilder . “Today showed us what were capable of doing hopefully during the rest of season.”
The Leopards will be back in action Saturday against Salem International at the Air Force Tournament in Colorado Springs.
Andrew Alonzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.