The La Verne women’s soccer team was defeated, 2-0, by the Occidental Tigers in their non-conference season opening match on Wednesday.
The Leopards played defensively for most of the first half, as the Tigers played aggressively early.
The Tigers rattled five shots off before the Leopards got their only shot of the half from a short breakaway opportunity created by senior forward Becca Fischer which was saved by the Tigers’ sophomore goalkeeper Ingrid Odmark.
As the Tigers continued to pressure the Leopards for the rest of the half, the defense held strong as they went into halftime locked at 0-0.
Senior center back Kaylee Dimarchi said the Leopards did what they could in the first half of the game.
“You get a feel for them in the beginning,” Dimarchi said. “Sometimes you have to be defensive and stop the attack in order to create attacks for ourselves.”
As the second half unfolded, the Tigers continued to put pressure on the Leopards’ back line.
The Tigers had two shots early in the second half, one of which was saved by sophomore goalkeeper Evelyn Saldivar.
The Leopards created another opportunity for themselves when freshman defender Shelbie Mueller took an outside shot that was saved by Odmark to stop the attack.
The Tigers continued to pressure the Leopards’ defensive side of the field as a save by Saldivar and a corner kick opportunity that sailed above the Leopards’ goal held the score at 0-0.
The turning point of the game came after a few consecutive fouls against the Leopards, including a yellow card on sophomore midfielder Valerie Vera, gave the Tigers prime position in Leopard territory.
It was the opportunity of the game for the Tigers as they capitalized on it by finding a hole in the middle Leopard defense on a cross to Tigers’ junior forward Anaise Nugent where she found the back net to put the Tigers up, 1-0, in the 75th minute of the game.
As time began to wind down, the Leopards put pressure on the Tigers.
Junior outside back Danielle Bennett and junior forward Sarah Ramirez each had a small breakaway that led to shots on the goal, however both attempts were saved by Odmark.
The Leopards’ biggest opportunity of the game came late as Fischer slipped past a sleeping defender waiting on the ball to go out of play and drive into the Tigers’ defense.
Fischer had to beat a two-on-one defensive attempt to find a shot, but her help did not come before the ball was stripped away.
The Leopards had another opportunity in the final minutes of the game from a corner kick that did not find a Leopard attacker before being cleared out by the Tigers’ defense.
A few more fouls on the Leopards flipped field position for the Tigers into La Verne territory which led to a dagger of a free kick from 30 yards out by Nugent for her second goal of the night, effectively putting away the Leopards for good.
Head coach Lauryn Pehanich said her squad has to work on increasing transitional opportunities that turn into attacking opportunities.
“We want to be an attacking team that denies scoring chances for the other team,” Pehanich. “We marked ourselves this game but we have a lot to get into to increase our transitional game.”
Bennett said their mindset switched to attack mode after the Tiger goal, but it was a little late to make a push.
“We pushed hard in the last eight minutes of the game when we knew they were tired, but we have to have that attacking mindset from the beginning to win these games,” Bennett said.
Freshman goalkeeper Mckenzie Maggiore said there must be more energy from the team.
“Our energy needs to be higher. We got sparked after going down, but we need that throughout the game,” Maggiore said.
The Leopards’ schedule started with preseason exhibitions against Compton College, a 2-0 win on Aug. 24, and Cal State Dominguez Hills, a 0-0 draw on Aug. 27.
The Leopards return to action Saturday night as they travel to Redlands to battle the Bulldogs at 7 p.m.
Jacob Barriga can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.