Stephen Gilson Jr.
After a stunning last-minute goal, the women’s soccer team tied Saint Katherine, 1-1, on Aug. 24 in a physical and hard-fought match at Ortmayer Stadium.
Both the Leopards and the Firebirds showed phenomenal defensive strategy throughout the game, which led to the low-scoring tie.
“Right now, we have been emphasizing a lot of our attacking principles and off-the-ball movement, so there is going to be a lot of different types of runs and different types of movement as a unit,” La Verne assistant coach Andrew Gonzalez said before the game.
Although this game was not an offensive battle, it was indeed a quality performance for an exhibition game. As the Leopards’ offense forced numerous gaps open within the opposing defense, they created separation for the offense to take 11 shots, with seven of those shots being on-target. One of those shots resulted in a goal scored, coming from senior forward Sarah Ramirez at 30:50 in the first half.
The Firebirds’ offense managed to tear apart the Leopards’ stonewall defense in one of the final sequences of the game. Saint Katherine forward Isabela Deleon took advantage of a fatally slow defensive transition, and made a cross-pass play to assist sophomore midfielder Anais Thompson in scoring a clutch goal at the 2:20 mark in the second half. Saint Katherine senior goalkeeper Victoria Cavazos did not allow the La Verne offense to score again after Ramirez’s goal, making 11 saves.
There were some notable performances on the Leopards’ defense. Sophomore goalkeeper McKenzie Maggiore tallied eight saves, with four coming in the final 15 minutes of the match. Senior defender Danielle Bennett also did a remarkable job of containing the Firebirds’ offense to the middle of the field to allow her fellow defenders and midfielders to crowd the ball and push the offense back.
“We have to get the ball in the back of the net, or we are not going to win games this season. We are not going to take this team for granted just because they are an NAIA team, and we are not going to look at them any differently,” Bennett said before the game.
Head coach Lauryn Pehanich and her team are also looking forward to a tough Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule this season.
“Pomona and Cal Lutheran are top dogs in our conference, so looking at our schedule they are looking to be at the top of the SCIAC league this year,” Pehanich said.
The team also took a trip to Mammoth where the team participated in a preseason camp.
“We were working on our lungs and working on being able to run for a full 90 minutes a game, but at the end of the day what we were really focusing on was the group of women that we have and the camaraderie that we want to bring on the field. I think we have a really strong leadership group this year and we wanted to emphasize that winning comes from within,” Pehanich said.
The pre-season camp helped bring the team closer together with new and incoming players on this year’s roster.
“We have a lot of returners, but at the same time it is a different mentality this season. It is a whole different vibe out on the field. We are definitely feeling more connected and motivated to take on bigger goals,” senior midfielder Reagan Appleby said.
The Leopards kicked off their season by hosting Whitworth on Thursday night. Their next match will be against Lewis and Clark at 9 a.m. Saturday at Ortmayer Stadium.
Stephen Gilson Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.