Sarah Van Buskirk
The La Verne men’s water polo team took a 15-12 victory over Johns Hopkins after a tough Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference defeat against Pomona-Pitzer earlier in the day Sept. 30 at the La Verne Aquatic Center.
The Leopards competed in the Gary Troyer Tournament this past weekend leaving with a 2-2 record. For both days of the tournament, the Leopards could not start off on a good foot but would redeem themselves in the following game. Their other win came from a tight 15-14 battle against Long Island University on Saturday, to raise their overall record to 5-12.
Halfway through the first quarter against Johns Hopkins, the Blue Jays put the first points on the board but senior attacker Alam Chang immediately retaliated.
“We had never played them before but they are a DIII team who have also seen a national championship and I think we made a statement to show DIII that we are a good team, here to play,” Chang said.
Chang carried a hot streak and assisted senior attacker Gage Unsoeld’s goal about a minute later. Chang snuck one more goal in to push the Leopards to a 3-1 lead.
With a minute left in the quarter, the Blue Jays found some energy and skipped the ball in. Matching that energy, graduate student James Cano got the last word and the Leopards went into the second quarter up 4-2.
A common theme in this game for the Leopards was something they had been on the short end of the stick for a majority of this season. They showed major improvements on not instantly giving up a goal after they had just scored themselves.
“We don’t have a deep bench so if we get caught up in back and forth we will run out of gas,” head coach Pat Beemer said. “When we talk about tempo we talk about finding our best opportunities.”
Beemer said that generally when the Leopards are patient with the ball something really positive happens, whether it is a goal or a shot on goal from that situation.
“We have a mix of very young players and old players and the young guys are understanding to slow it down and see the game as it happens,” Beemer said.
They played with a lot of aggression and were able to shut down many of the Blue Jays’ offensive opportunities due to their heavy man-to-man coverage.
Starting off the second quarter the Blue Jays used the blaring autumn sun and lobbed a shot behind graduate student goalkeeper Joe Lamson but the Leopards were right on it. Junior center Peter Trinh scored right after and the ball kept rolling.
The Leopards held high intensity and remained at most in a three goal lead for the rest of the quarter. When the buzzer rang for halftime the Leopards led, 10-8.
After a turnover and steal at the beginning of the third quarter, John Hopkins was hungry and tied the game, 10-10. This initiated vigorous efforts from both teams and the water in the pool was hectic.
But the tie was nothing that worried the Leopards as they produced three connections with the back of the net before the end of the quarter.
Trinh scored on a five-meter penalty shot as well as a shot from the far side assisted by Chang. Freshman attacker Jacob Hackbarth also scored on a powerplay opportunity.
“Coming into this game we had the mentality of staying strong and not living back on mistakes we made prior to this game or even during this game,” Trinh said. “We just kept going and helped our teammates remain positive.”
In the fourth quarter of the game, both teams managed to put up two final goals and the Blue Jays could not capitalize on their tie game momentum. The Leopards took the 15-12 win.
Sophomore utility player Jason Shultenburg said that the liveliness from the Pomona-Pitzer game really translated into this game.
“The energy was through the roof and I think we came into this game about 100%,” Shultenburg said.
La Verne hit the road on Wednesday for a three away game SCIAC stretch starting with a close 11-9 defeat against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. They will face the Caltech Beavers at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Braun Athletic Center and will travel to matchup against Cal Lutheran on Oct. 15 before heading home to play Whittier on Oct. 19.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.