Sarah Van Buskirk
The La Verne men’s water polo team intensely battled the Occidental Tigers but went flat defensively in the second half for a 22-16 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference loss Wednesday at the La Verne Aquatic Center.
This game brought the Leopards’ record to 6-17 overall and 0-7 in SCIAC play.
“We cannot do something really efficient and cool water polo wise and then just dub out on the next defensive possession,” head coach Pat Beemer said.
Graduate student goalkeeper Joe Lamson was not in the cage for the Leopards this game due to injury, however junior goalkeeper Allen Soto-Lopez was there in substitute.
The initial sprint was won by the Leopards as speedy sophomore attacker Cody Lehotsky pushed the ball to the home side of the water. Senior attacker Gage Unsoeld picked up and held onto the ball with patience until finding junior center Peter Trinh. Trinh passed to graduate student center James Cano and an early Leopard goal exhilarated the stands and side line, which helped continue the fierce drive in the water.
“We came out strong in the first quarter which we have been working on throughout the whole season,” Trinh said. “But the opposite follows and we are dying out near the second half but overall we kept the pressure on and played till the end.’
After three minutes of back and forth play along with seven shots on goal collected from both teams, Occidental scored on their rebound off the crossbar to put themselves on the board.
With an immediate retaliation from Trinh’s rebound, senior attacker Alam Chang put the ball behind the goalie to regain the lead, 2-1, but the Tigers tied it right back up. Chang executed the next two goals for the Leopards despite the Tigers’ reciprocation.
Chang left Las Floras Park that evening with seven goals and 10 shots, having produced the most action from either roster.
“Despite the score, I think we were in it the whole time until the last maybe three minutes,” Chang said. “But we need to improve on, in practice, giving up less turnovers.”
Minutes before the end of the first quarter, a defensive mistake was made by the Leopards which caused the score to swing dominant to the Tigers. Going into the second quarter the Leopards trailed, 6-4.
At the start of the whistle the Tigers extended their lead but moments later, Unsoeld took matters into his own hands. Using patience as a tactic, Unsoeld held onto the ball looking for opportunities. After scoping out no available options, he launched the ball toward the back of the net, throwing everyone in the water off. Unsoeld was explosive and went on to repeat this play twice more throughout the game.
“Our problem has never been scoring goals, it’s just been about getting stops and that is something we need to be more accountable about in the future,” Unsoeld said.
Although the tally sheet may say otherwise, impressive defensive plays were made by the Leopards in this game that have been lacking in previous games. They did a better job of preventing the ball from breaking the back line, resulting in more turnovers from ricochets off other La Verne players’ arms.
Cano also made an impressive defensive play as he placed heavy pressure on the Tigers goalie to provoke a turnover and open goal while Trinh came to clean it up. But the Tigers led 13-7 going into the half.
The second half started with heat from players and coaches after Cano drew a 5-meter penalty shot. Chang shot and the goal was good, however he was excluded after a minor call of misconduct after he made a mocking motion with his hand.
During a Leopards offensive opportunity, Occidental head coach Jack Stabenfeldt called a timeout on an advancing play that Beemer saw as unfair because it interrupted the Leopards’ possible scoring drive.
The Leopards remained in close playing level as the Tigers but just could not catch onto a lead and the final score had the Tigers victorious, 22-16.
With an exciting weekend ahead, the Leopards will host Biola at 11 a.m. Saturday for a SCIAC conference game against a non-conference opponent.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at email@example.com.