Sarah Van Buskirk
The La Verne women’s water polo team showed their eagerness to prove themselves as a competitive opponent in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference as they took the 13-10 win against the Cal Lutheran Regals Saturday afternoon at the La Verne Aquatic Center in Las Flores Park.
Head coach Pat Beemer said that in his six years coaching for La Verne, the team has never beaten Cal Lutheran, so this is a big victory for the Leopards.
La Verne outscored Cal Lutheran for the first three quarters and only trailed by one in the fourth as they kept the intensity levels high and a leg up on the Regals.
Notable efforts by senior goalkeeper Kate Carlyle maintained the Leopards’ lead as she produced six saves, with three being game-defying recoveries in the fourth quarter.
“Our main focus leading up to this game was pressing and focusing on what we need to do rather than playing into anyone else’s game,” Carlyle said. “The past couple of games we played down or we played up, we were kind of on this rollercoaster, and today we finally played our game which was super beneficial, and the results speak for themselves.”
The Leopards won the initial sprint as they have struggled recently on their win ratio off the line. The Leopards have been finding their momentum too late in matches which does not give them enough time to make a comeback.
Nonetheless, La Verne gave 100% energy each play against Cal Lutheran and played aggressively from start to finish. Beemer said as the season goes on, the more ample the Leopards get in the water.
“We talked a lot about composure and nerves,” Beemer said. “Last Wednesday, we had a lot of that so they really came out comfortable today, and I think that makes a big difference.”
Two minutes into the game, sophomore attacker Brianna Zapata made a turn around the defender and lobbed the ball into the cage for the first point of the game.
The Leopards’ dominating spirit caused many turnovers on the Regals’ end, and following up on a Cal Lutheran turnover, sophomore center Olivia Taylor received a long pass and swung her arm around the defender to gain the point, 2-0.
To continue the Leopards’ hot streak, a pass got away from the Regals, which initiated the counterattack for the opposition. Graduate student attacker Jassmine Kezman gained possession and passed the ball to senior center Nancy Trinh who added another point to the scoreboard, and the Leopards led 3-0 with five minutes still remaining in the first quarter.
“We can say because we lost on Wednesday [to Redlands, 10-9], it upped our mindset and we just had to come out stronger than before,” Taylor said.
Three minutes passed, and a Leopards’ exclusion was credited and a potential Cal Lutheran goal almost made its way into the net but hit to post to save La Verne’s defense on that play.
Directly after, the whistle blew for an exclusion on the Regals, and with a man up Trinh with the help of Zapata lengthened the Leopards’ lead to 4-0.
La Verne went 5-for-7 on their power plays and killed six out of 11 of Cal Lutheran’s 6-on-5 advantages.
With a little over a minute, the Regals gathered up some momentum and with an extra attacker, found themselves on the tally sheet for the first time in the game. On their next attacking drive, the Regals put another one in the cage to trim the deficit 4-2.
Kezman reciprocated the force and made a turn around the goalie for a lob shot in, 5-2. However, with the final seconds ticking on the shot clock, a Leopard was sent out and a Regal goal came in, sneaking one more point in for Cal Lutheran before starting a fresh quarter.
La Verne outscored Cal Lutheran in the second quarter, 2-1, with efforts by Taylor and senior utility player Abby Nuñez. In the third quarter, the Leopards kept the pressure tight and took the quarter win, 3-2, with the help of Nuñez, Zapata and freshman utility player Maddie Grove.
“Our game mentality was really strong, and the energy we had was above and beyond,” Grove said. “We worked together and communicated really well. Our defense was really good by shutting them down and getting in the lanes.”
The fourth quarter was acknowledged by the Regals, and they found some gusto to outscore the Leopards, 4-3, but it was not enough to overthrow the lead the Leopards had cultivated in the previous quarters. The game ended 13-10 in the Leopards’ favor.
La Verne traveled to Pomona-Pitzer on Wednesday for another SCIAC matchup against the Sagehens but could not keep their momentum rolling and fell 15-8.
The women’s water polo team now has a record of 4-12 overall and 1-3 in SCIAC play.
They will take on Westcliff for a non-conference matchup Friday at noon at Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine. They return to SCIAC play when they travel to Chapman at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.