The men’s soccer team won 3-2 in a dog fight of a match against the Whittier Poets Wednesday night.
The Leopards played a competitive first half as both the Poets and the Leopards would have shots on goal early in the match, including a hard shot off the foot of senior forward James Coe that was stopped by junior Poet goalkeeper Teddy Nickerson.
The stalemate would last for the majority of the first half and physical play from both teams raised the intensity as few fouls were called but bodies hit the ground continuously.
In the final 15 minutes of the half, the Poets put real pressure on the Leopard defense and eventually broke through.
Poet senior defender Daniel Hayes found junior forward Banks Telkamp for his first goal of the season on a cross that slipped past the Leopard defense and senior goalkeeper Kevan Rehmani in the 35th minute.
The Poets headed into the half with the momentum and 1-0 advantage.
“At half, we already knew we had to step up and we were prepared, we knew we could do it,” Coe said.
The Poets came out strong in the second half, getting multiple opportunities early. Ten minutes into the half, the Poets tried to bury the Leopards deeper when a hot shot from sophomore Zach Guarino hit the crossbar, bounced back into play and immediately found Telkamp for a rebound shot that the Leopard defense blocked and eventually cleared, avoiding another blow.
The Leopards had been a little stagnant on the offensive end before junior midfielder Owen Osagiede streaked through the defense and fired a strike into the left corner of the goal, freezing Nickerson and tying up the match at 1-1 in the 60th minute.
The teams traded possessions and hard fouls before a free kick just outside the right side of the box set up the Poets.
Junior midfielder Grant Rutledge smashed the left post in the air and banked the shot in to give Whittier the seemingly winning shot in the 69th minute.
The Leopards would not be turned away, and they turned up the pressure in crunch time.
Following a frustrating offside call in the 82nd minute, the Poets granted La Verne freshman midfielder Joel Trejo a free kick opportunity that he did not miss.
Trejo set up outside the left of the box, sent a high arcing shot that beat the keeper to the right post and bounced into the goal to tie the game up, 2-2.
The equalizer put some juice into the Leopard’s as they put more pressure on the Poets in the final minutes.
“I think (the second goal) really lifted our team’s spirits and we got together and focused on getting the next one to finish the game,” Trejo said.
Coe got two clean looks at the net. The first sailed wide left but his second found home after breaking through the middle of the defense and beating the goalkeeper to put the Leopards up for good, 3-2, in the 85th minute.
Head coach Trevor Perrson said his team’s mindset did not change.
“We trusted ourselves and we stuck to our game plan even when we were down. Once we got one we knew we were going to get two,” Perrson said.
Osagiede said the Leopard offense is diverse and confident.
“We got a few guys that can score, we have a lot of weapons and it gives us confidence going into SCIAC,” Osagiede said.
The Leopards are 2-2-1 overall and continue Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Ortmayer Stadium.
Jacob Barriga can be reached at email@example.com.