Sarah Van Buskirk
Assistant Sports Editor
The men’s water polo team fell apart during its 22-13 loss to No. 18 Pomona-Pitzer on Sept. 22 at the La Verne Aquatic Center.
The Leopards made their way into the water with more energy than last week but lost their momentum during the second period.
The Sagehens gained first possession and within the first 15 seconds Leopard sophomore center Peter Trinh created a penalty shot for Pomona-Pitzer. Sagehen junior attacker Sam Sasaki not only scored on the penalty shot but quickly regained the ball and put it past the Leopard goalie, starting the score out as 2-0.
“Defense awareness is one of the challenges we are working on,” senior attacker Guillermo Ocasio said. “Slowly but surely we are improving.”
The Leopards’ accurate passing game allowed them to swing the ball around the defense. After a long possession, freshman attacker Cody Lethotsky finished the play and scored, putting the Leopards on the board, 2-1.
Two minutes passed and the Sagehens scored again. However, Trinh, trying to keep the score tight, made a shot attempt which got deflected by the Sagehens’ goalie but Trinh rebounded and put it in to narrow the score to 3-2.
As the first period progressed, the Sagehens scored again but the Leopards were coming in with strong rebuttals. With 2:48 left in the first, Leopard junior attacker Alam Barnuevo connected the ball with the back of the net, bringing the score to 4-3.
After a successful penalty shot by the Sagehens the score became 5-3. With the end of the period closing in, the Leopards’ offense began heavy pressure toward the goal along with their defense playing man-to-man coverage to hold the Sagehens scoreless. Back-to-back goals by Trinh tied the game and with one second on the clock Leopard senior center Michael Staine scored to put them in the lead, 6-5, going into the second period.
“The first period was definitely a positive, we came out strong and the energy was there,” Barnuevo said. “If we keep that momentum throughout the whole game then we can be more successful then we have been.”
As the second period started, the Leopards lost their aggressive play and the Sagehens took advantage. Halfway through the second period the Sagehens were up 10-6.
With three minutes left in the half, the Leopards finally capitalized when Lehotsky got the ball past Pomona-Pitzer’s goalie. Shortly after, Barnuevo got another opportunity to score and made the most of it to make the score 10-8. The Leopards’ defense appeared to slow down and the Sagehens ended the half up 12-8.
The Sagehens gained first possession in the third period and held possession for about five minutes. Within those five minutes, the Sagehens accumulated seven more goals, moving the score to 19-8.
“The momentum of the game shifted from us to them and they just took over,” Barnueveo said.
About a minute left in the third period the Leopards woke up and Lehotsky, who was wide open past the Sagehens defensive, collected a long pass from senior attacker Cristian Gonzalez and scored the Leopards’ first goal of the period, 19-9.
Soon after the Sagehens put another point on the board but the Leopards mirrored them and Barnuevo drilled the ball into the net. With less than a minute left in the period the score was 20-10.
With the Leopards’ defense still struggling, the Sagehens fired in one more goal. Sagehens junior attacker Jacob Cohn was then ejected and in the final second Ocasio skipped the ball into the net on a penalty shot to end the period at 21-11.
In the fourth period the Leopards’ defense stayed solid and only one point from the Sagehens was scored. Trinh pushed two more goals in for the Leopards hoping to close in on the 10 point difference, 21-13. Trinh finished with 10 shots and five goals.
With the game coming to an end, the Sagehens put one more point on the board to make the final score 22-13.
Senior goalkeeper Ryan Lehotsky said the team’s fierceness at practice could improve which would then reflect more in their games.
“Like Coach Beemer always says if you are not going to show up intense at practice then you will not show up intense for games,” Lehotsky said.
The Leopards lost their next game, 16-7, to Cal Lutheran on Saturday and their Wednesday match against Occidental was canceled. La Verne is currently 2-9 overall and 0-3 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.