Sarah Van Buskirk
The La Verne men’s water polo team was unable to capitalize despite many offensive opportunities during Wednesday’s Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener against Chapman at the La Verne Aquatic Center, losing to the Panthers, 17-10.
“With the exception of the score we were outplaying them in the game, earning more shots and exclusions,” head coach Pat Beemer said. “It is just really frustrating to not convert on big scoring opportunities.”
Both the Leopards and Panthers were on the prowl to start the SCIAC season with a win. The Panthers’ gain of the initial sprint kept their energy high in the first quarter and put them up 3-0 with just a few minutes left in the quarter.
After a La Verne time-out to regroup and a strong block by graduate student goalkeeper Joe Lamson, who went on to have a total of seven thrilling saves that followed, the Leopards adjusted to the Panthers play.
“The guys take a hell of a lot of shots but it all comes down to executing the defense so those goals mean something,” Lamson said.
In a powerplay sophomore attacker Cody Lehotsky pushed to the outside of the pool and held onto the ball while he remained patient, scoping out his best options. Lehotsky threw a darting pass towards the middle where graduate student center James Cano was tucked in. Cano tapped the ball in to add the first tally to the Leopards’ score sheet.
The second quarter fired up for the Leopards. Lamson made a few more impressive saves, curbing the Panthers from extending their lead.
Cano scored half of the Leopards goals against Chapman and Beemer said that there is still not enough being said about him. He said Cano’s ability to remain strong and control the center while adding to the scoreboard is a fascinating game to watch.
Either unassisted or from the help of other Leopards, Cano scored three right off of the whistle during the second quarter. However the Panthers had not lost momentum and reciprocated every offensive move the Leopards made. Going into halftime the Panthers led, 8-4.
“We are getting better on our communication on the offense,” Cano said. “We just need to work on communication for the defense in our next games.”
The Leopards came out of the locker room with more defensive energy and they were applying more pressure to the Panthers. However that did not stop Chapman as they continued to find the back of the net and stay in a significant lead for the game.
Senior attackers Gage Unsoeld and Alam Chang held on to the positive movement in the water and helped add to the score. Exclusions were made and five-meter penalty shots were given out going into the final quarter of the game and the Panthers still had the one up on the Leopards with a 13-7 lead.
In the fourth quarter the Leopards closed the deficit as tight as they could after tremendous efforts in the first few minutes.
Chang scored the final point for the Leopards in an exciting breakaway from the ricochet of Lamson’s block that got the home side’s stands cheering. For the remainder of the game, the Panthers snuck in a few more goals to push them over the top and take the 17-10 win.
“This loss is obviously not what we wanted but Chapman came out with more energy and capitalized on every one of our mistakes,” Chang said.
Lots of water polo will be played this weekend at Las Flores Park for the Gary Troyer Tournament. The Leopards will take on the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens at 11:20 a.m. Friday for the only SCIAC game of the tournament. Later in the day, at 4:40 p.m., La Verne will face Johns Hopkins. The Leopards will return Saturday for games against Mount St. Mary’s at 10:20 a.m. and Long Island at 3:40 p.m.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at email@example.com.
An earlier version of this story reported an incorrect opponent for La Verne’s Sept. 30 match. The Leopards actually played Johns Hopkins, not Cal Baptist. The Campus Times regrets the error.