Sarah Van Buskirk
It was a tough week for the women’s water polo team who let three close matches get away by the narrowest of margins.
First, the Leopards gave up their lead in a close 11-10 loss against the Bucknell Bison on March 16 at the La Verne Aquatic Center. Then they were edged out by the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas, 9-8, Saturday at home and by the Whittier Poets, 14-13, Wednesday on the road.
The trouble started against Bucknell, where the Leopards had the one up on the Bison until the third quarter when Bucknell started to charge the goal.
“I think we let one get away from us,” head coach Pat Beemer said. “If you score 10 goals you typically should win the game. So we scored enough, we just didn’t quite defend enough.”
After the initial sprint, the energy in the pool and on the bench was high for the Leopards. Wasting no time, senior attacker Jassmine Kezman put one behind the goalie on a 5-meter penalty shot to get the Leopards on the board first. However, the Bison immediately fired back with a power play goal to tie the game.
“We are still trying to get to know the way our teammates play,” Kezman said. “We are still learning and this is a stepping stone for us in our next challenging games.”
Equally matched offenses kept the back and forth scores flowing as the first quarter ended and the Leopards were up 4-3.
In the second quarter, the Leopards saw an opportunity to jump on a bigger lead when sophomore center Nanea Mattson put the ball in the cage to extend the score to 5-3.
Mattson was the Leopards’ top shooter of the game with six shots, three goals and one assist. That assist came soon after Mattson’s second goal when she set up attacker Dani D’Andrea for a power play break. The Leopards then had a three point lead against the Bison.
The Bison managed to put one more point on the board before halftime and both teams headed into the locker room with the Leopards leading, 6-4.
In the third quarter the Bison out-shot the Leopards 4-1 for a comeback by the five minute mark. Shortly after, the Bison put another ball behind Leopard goalie Kate Carlyle to place them in the lead for the first time all game.
The Leopards called for a timeout to recollect after their upset.
“We have been having a hard time having a good all four quarters,” senior defensive attacker Sumi Rudisky said.
With 30 seconds left on the clock, senior attacker Bianca Sanchez made a power play goal to tie the game but the Bison reciprocated and headed into the final quarter leading by one.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Bison quickly added another tally to the scoresheet but Mattson did not let Bucknell celebrate for too long as she skipped the ball into the back of the net. The score then stood 9-8.
Both teams then created extreme momentum and made multiple drives to the goals with just the few minutes that remained.
A Bison goal brought their lead up by two but Rudisky cut the deficit back to one.
With two minutes left in the game, the Bison could not be stopped as they scored their final goal. The Leopards pushed for a comeback but D’Andrea’s final second goal was all they could call together. The Bison took the 11-10 victory over the Leopards.
“Our team was really strong to even go against Bucknell as a Division I team,” senior attacker Porsche Double said.
The three close losses put the Leopards at 10-8 overall and 2-5 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
The Leopards began a non-conference stretch Thursday, hosting Ottawa and Biola, to be followed by a match against Brown at noon Monday. They return to SCIAC play Wednesday with a doubleheader at home against Chapman at 4 p.m. and Occidental at 7 p.m.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at email@example.com.