Sarah Van Buskirk
Assistant Sports Editor
The men’s water polo team suffered a 24-14 loss to the Occidental Tigers in their first conference game Saturday at Las Flores Park.
The Leopard’s defense failed to show their hands causing the Tigers to get ahead early. The Tigers’ intense pressure held the Leopards to few scoring chances.
“We had a great game plan against them and just failed to execute it,” head coach Pat Beemer said.
In the first minute of the game the Tigers gained possession and wasted no time when junior attacker Cian Concannon found the back of the net and put the Tigers on the board. Within the next three minutes the Tigers fired in two more goals to lead, 3-0.
Halfway through the first period, after some shots on goal, Leopards’ senior attacker Guillermo Ocasio got the ball past Occidental’s goalie, advancing the score to 3-1. Shortly after, Tigers junior attacker Keegan Klein was ejected, which gave the Leopards another chance to score. Junior attacker Alam Barnuevo made the most of the opportunity, closing the gap to 3-2.
The Leopards focused more on zone coverage in the water which left many Tiger players wide open. After a penalty shot and another goal, the Tigers were up 5-2.
However with 1:35 left in the first period, Occidental freshman attacker Tristan Tippett passed the ball to senior center Michael Staine who then tipped the ball in bringing the score to 5-3. Seconds before the end of the first period, Tigers senior attacker Jasper Lee scored, leading the Tigers to a 6-3 lead into the second period.
“We need to get more into a team mentality and get rid of the individual play, and play more unified,” Staine said.
In the first minute of the second period La Verne junior attacker Gage Unsoeld started off fast putting another point on the board, making the score 6-4.
Miscommunication by the Leopards led to many turnovers and by the fifth minute of the second period the Tigers led 8-4.
“Occidental is a pretty explosive team when it comes to countering,” sophomore center Peter Trinh said “We tried to take that into account but it slipped away at the end.”
Trying to bring the momentum back, Trinh recovered the ball and scored in the third minute making the score 8-5.
Back to back goals by the Tigers put the Leopards down 10-5 but in the last minute of the period Trinh retaliated with another goal for the Leopards. The score then stood 10-6.
In the closing seconds of the half, Tippett recovered a deflected Tiger shot attempt and added another point for the Leopards, ending the half 10-7.
After switching sides of the pool, the Tigers gained first possession again. Two minutes in and another two goals were scored by the Tigers, making the score 12-7. Quickly after, Tigers junior attacker Shea Grosz was ejected and gave a penalty shot attempt to the Leopards. Ocasio skipped the ball past the Occidental goalie which then made the score 12-8.
For the rest of the third period, the Tiger’s man-to-man defensive coverage prevented the Leopards from scoring any points. However the Tigers attacked the Leopards’ defense aggressively, scoring six more points, ending the period 18-8.
The fourth period began and it was the Leopards’ last opportunity to make a comeback. Thirty seconds in, freshman attacker Cody Lehotsky drove the ball into the net, putting another point on the board for the Leopards, 18-9.
Following multiple drives, three minutes remained in the game and both teams scored two more goals, 21-11. Crunch time began and Barnuevo’s shot attempt tipped off the hands of Tiger freshman Matt Arredondo and snuck past the goalie, adding another point for the Leopards, 21-12. A quick rebuttal by the Tigers put them further in the lead, 22-12
In the final minute of the game, Barnuevo broke away and found himself face to face with the Tigers’ goalie and put the ball past him, setting the score to 22-13. The Tigers got two more offensive pushes towards the goal and successfully connected with the back of the net, 24-13.
With one second left in the game, Ocasio got a final chance to add another point and finalized the score, 24-14.
The Leopards also faced Westcliff on Saturday and came away with a 15-11 win.
On Wednesday, La Verne hosted nationally ranked Pomona-Pitzer and suffered a 22-13 loss. The Leopards now sit at 2-8 overall and 0-2 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The team will face off against Cal Lutheran at 11 a.m. Saturday at the La Verne Aquatic Center in Las Flores Park.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.