Leopards fight hard but fall short to Stags

Sarah Van Buskirk
Editor-in-Chief

The La Verne men’s water polo team fought aggressively to the final buzzer during an 8-6 loss to the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags in a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference matchup Wednesday evening at the La Verne Aquatic Center. 

Though the weather was overcast with a wind factor, the water was heated as it was an emotionally-driven game. Contentious back-and-forth play by both teams kept the score tight throughout the match.

Head coach Pat Beemer said he did not like the way the game was called but was proud of how his players still held CMS to only eight goals. 

Mainly focusing on defense in this past week’s practices, Beemer said that Biola, which the Leopards faced Saturday in a cutthroat 15-14 loss, plays very similar to CMS, which gave them a practice run for this SCIAC game. Though neither games improved the Leopards’ record, Beemer said what has improved is the Leopards’ defense. 

“Normally we rely on Joe (Lamson, graduate student goalkeeper) to make a lot of saves and he didn’t have to make a lot of saves,” Beemer said. “We were shot blocking on the outside and even taking away shots that they could’ve taken.” 

The initial sprint was won by the Leopards but after their unsuccessful powerplay, the Stags took charge and scored on their second drive of the game which marked the first point on the board. 

Just a minute later, senior attacker Alam Chang had possession on the outside and slotted the ball in the middle where graduate student center James Cano was there to tap it past the Stags’ junior goalkeeper Aidan Nettekoven and tie the game, 1-1. 

For the rest of the first quarter the Leopards were struggling to control their passing game which resulted in turnovers picked up by the Stags. CMS led 3-1 going into the second quarter. 

“I think conditioning really isn’t an issue,” senior attacker Gage Unsoeld said. “We just need to be more patient with our passes on offense. That also means everyone has to get involved, not just two or three guys.”

Second quarter scoring opened up on a CMS powerplay which extended their lead to 4-1. However on the counter, La Verne sophomore attacker Ryan Lebrun picked up the rebound off the post from Unsoeld’s previous shot on goal, which brought the score to 4-2. 

Four minutes later, Chang helped close in on the gap and dented the twine on the shot clock buzzer after multiple quick passing rotations from the Leopards. They were right back in it as they trailed, 4-3, going into halftime. 

That comeback was not just about the offensive. Lamson produced four remarkable saves in the second quarter, having five saves total, that stunted the Stags on gaining a further lead. 

“I did better in terms of talking and directing a little bit more,” Lamson said. “I remember last time we played them they were really good at squeezing the ball in on my right and I felt like I readjusted but it just wasn’t enough.”

Early in the third quarter, freshman utility player Jaden Javier tied up the game on the final seconds of the shot clock and the pool deck was ecstatic with celebrations from the Leopards and home side stands. Unfortunately that momentum was silenced after the Stags scored on their counter attack. 

The iconic and successful Chang-to-Cano alley-oop pass found its way to the Leopards offensive side on a power play to tie the game yet again, 5-5. But the Stags’ ability to retaliate put them right back on top going into the final quarter, 6-5

The Stags scored twice more in the fourth quarter and the only offensive carry out for the Leopards came from junior center Peter Trinh’s good penalty shot. Time ran out and the final score was 8-6. 

“Our offense wasn’t really here today,” Trinh said. “Unlucky bars, shooting right at the goalie, just overall it was unlucky for our offense.”

La Verne will host Austin University for a non-conference matchup as they will celebrate the seniors in their final home game of the season Saturday at 10 a.m.. The Leopards will wrap up their season as they travel to Pomona-Pitzer on Wednesday and Occidental on Nov. 12 in hopes of gaining their first conference win.

Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at sarah.vanbuskirk@laverne.edu.

Sarah Van Buskirk is a senior journalism major with a concentration in print and online journalism. She is the Spring 2024 editorial director for the Campus Times and has recently served as editor-in-chief, sports editor and staff writer. She is also currently a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine, and a staff writer for La Verne Magazine.

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