The men’s water polo team finished its season with a neck-and-neck game against the Redlands Bulldogs but fell short, losing 10-9.
The Leopards finished Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play with a 4-10 record, while the Bulldogs ended 7-6.
“We all played our hearts out. We pushed hard and swam fast. Despite the outcome, we still played well,” senior attacker Kris Grigorian said.
Head coach Pat Beemer was pleased with how his team played despite the end result.
“We honestly played great, despite our finish,” said Beemer. “There wasn’t a lack of effort or emotion. They balled out.”
Both teams kicked off the exciting match with the momentum shifting back and forth throughout the first two periods.
The Leopards took the game into their own hands, going into half with a tight 6-5 lead.
The second half proved just as thrilling as the first.
Junior attacker Guillermo Ocasio took a hard shot but it was saved by junior goalkeeper Chris Martinez. Ocasio finished the game with three goals and three steals.
“We gave our all. We wanted it more, but they made less mistakes,” Ocasio said.
After a Bulldog timeout, Redlands sophomore utility Jasen Swan tied the game up, 6-6.
The Leopards quickly responded with a powerful shot from senior center Vasil Halchev to regain the Leopards’ lead.
The Leopards defense showed out with a major block from senior goalkeeper Mason Fox.
La Verne kept it up, with two back-to-back blocks, shutting down the Bulldog offense.
Before the end of the third period, the Bulldogs were able to score, taking the lead, 8-7.
Martinez took a shot across the pool to beat the buzzer, but it took a fortunate skip on the water and hit the top cross bar.
The Bulldogs strengthened their lead to 9-7 but a goal from La Verne junior attacker Dario Mariani brought it back to a one point game.
“I wanted to keep playing hard and make sure we countered them,” Mariani said.
“It was my pleasure playing with these seniors. We’ve been close since day one and I couldn’t imagine playing with anyone else,” Ocasio said.
Beemer said he was proud of his seniors and the way they improved the culture of the program.
“This senior class is a special group of kids, they have helped change the whole mentality of this program,” Beemer said. “They’re the kind of kids you want to build a team around.”
Savannah Dingman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.