The men’s water polo team’s win streak was short-lived, as they took two home losses this week, falling to Cal Lutheran 11-7 on Saturday and to Whittier 18-8 on Wednesday.
The Leopards move to 7-14 overall and 2-6 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Against the Whittier Poets, Leopards sophomore goalie Ryan Lehotsky had one of his biggest games of the season with some major saves in the cage, but Poets sophomore attacker Eric Borunda was still able to come up with three goals early in the half.
Lehotsky ended the game with 13 saves.
“Normally we don’t have the best performance in the cage, but we perform offensively, today was the opposite, so we’re going to switch up a lot of things in practice,” said head coach Pat Beemer.
Whittier’s consistency throughout the game payed off, scoring four or five points in each quarter.
The Leopards would score just once in both the second and fourth quarter.
On offense, the Leopards used up the clock, but then struggled to find good scoring opportunities, with shots often getting blocked or going wide.
“We had great intensity, but we had a really hard time scoring. We went off script today,” Beemer said. “Defensively we were trying to make sure [the Poet’s] best player didn’t score, but it turned out others scored more.”
Numerous scores from Leopards sophomore center Michael Staine and sophomore attacker Myles Storms kept La Verne in the game early, but as Whittier increased their lead the Leopard offense began to stall.
“Our defense was our biggest downfall this game. We knew coming into the game they had good shooters, so not being able to stop them cost us in the end,” freshman attacker Alam Barnuevo said.
While some say the Leopards’ breakdown was on offense, some of the players felt their defensive efforts also fell short as the game continued.
“We played well at first, but then we started to delay on shot blocking and allowing them shots from the outside,” junior attacker Guillermo Ocasio said.
Borunda was a key component to the Poet’s offense, scoring seven goals and two assists.
“We came out with a five-man-zone because they have a really good center, but we didn’t expect their shooting to be as good as it was.” Storms said.
Storms lead the Leopards offensively with a pair of goals and an assist, but the Leopards were unable to comeback from the first half deficit, falling to the Poets 18-8.
Senior utility Charles Ortega and Barnuevo combined for 12 total shots, but both only managed to find the bag of the cage twice.
Earlier in the week against the Cal Lutheran Kingsmen, similar to the Poet game, the Leopards fell behind early which made the game an instant up-hill battle.
The Leopards, determined to make a come back, would find themselves just two points behind the Kingsmen after a strong scoring quarter in the third.
But despite the Leopards’ efforts, Cal Lutheran ultimately outscored the Leopards in the fourth quarter, finishing the game 11-7.
Ortega and Vasil Halchev landed a pair of goals for the Leopards, while Cal Lutheran’s Ben Brown and Justin Krause each scored three goals.
By the end of the game, both the Leopards and the Kingsmen were evenly matched in terms of shots taken, but the Kingsmen were more successful in finding the back of the net.
Unable to recover from the first half, La Verne lost the game 11-7.
The Leopards will go on the road for their next conference game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Occidental.
Savannah Dingman can be reached at email@example.com.