Sarah Van Buskirk
The women’s water polo team lost their defensive strength in their senior night game against Cal Lutheran, losing 14-9 Wednesday afternoon at the La Verne Aquatic Center.
This was a make-or-break game for the Leopards as they had to win in order to make the playoffs. They now stand in the No. 5 spot in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Despite the damage, after the game the seniors on the team were recognized as they stood along their friends and family. With 10 senior players this year, nearly half the team will be graduating.
“We will have massive rebuilding,” head coach Pat Beemer said. “Me and my assistants have been working hard because we have a lot of suits to fill.”
The first quarter against the Regals had high energy for both teams with aggressive offense putting points on the board. Back and forth play ended the quarter in a tie, 3-3.
Senior attacker Dani D’Andrea scored the first two goals of the game. On Monday, D’Andrea was named SCIAC Water Polo Offensive Player of the Week after guiding the Leopards to a 15-5 win over Caltech on April 6.
D’Andrea said she believed her team expected to play as well as they did against Redlands two weeks ago but did not execute the little things right.
“There were plenty of opportunities for us, we just weren’t finishing our shots like we normally do,” D’Andrea said. “Unfortunately we put ourselves in a very difficult place going into our last games.”
Beemer said the second quarter was disastrous for the Leopards as they were outscored 5-2. The Leopards defense got quiet and started to back off on the pressure. The Regals took the lead on a power play goal but sophomore center Nanea Mattson tied the game back up after her rocket into the goal.
The tie was short lived as the Regals took a two point lead. La Verne utility player Abby Nunez tightened the deficit after picking up a rebound but the scoring stopped there for the Leopards in the second quarter.
The Regals found the net twice more before the teams headed into the locker room for halftime.
After recollecting in the locker room, the spirits seemed to be lifted for the Leopards as the bench and the home team stands were chanting for the green and orange.
In the third quarter the Leopards were inching closer to tying the game back up but the Regals continued to dominate.
Senior attacker Sona Aghasaryan said the intensity surrounding this particular game got into the team’s head.
“Our coach said that the destiny of our season was in our hands in this game,” Aghasaryan said. “But whatever happened, happened at the end of the day.”
Regardless of the number on the scoreboard, the Leopards had 32 total shots in the game, out shooting the Regals who had 23 shots.
Goalie Kate Carlyle dislocated her shoulder during the game but continued to persevere as she was aggressive when coming out of the goal for steals and blocking a handful of shots.
The deficit remained within a three-point range for the whole third quarter and the Leopards could not jump on a lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Regals put themselves up by five points after a power play goal and no Leopard defensive pressure.
There were just a few minutes remaining for the Leopards to initiate a comeback. Senior attacker Bianca Sanchez received a long pass and quickly gave the ball to D’Andrea who scored the final goal of the game for the Leopards.
Shortly after, the Regals skipped one more in the back of the net, finalizing the score 14-9.
Senior defensive attacker Sumiko Rudisky said although the score was not what they wanted, there were still huge takeaways in the game.
“Some positives we had were keeping their lead scorer to only two goals,” Rudisky said. “Our goalie had great saves and we were all working well together.”
The Leopards currently have a conference record of 6-6 as they travel to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday and Pomona-Pitzer on Wednesday for their final SCIAC games of the season.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at email@example.com.