Sarah Van Buskirk
The La Verne women’s water polo team extended their five-game win streak with a 14-6 triumph against the Caltech Beavers on Saturday at Las Flores Park at the La Verne Aquatic Center, followed by a 9-5 win at Whittier on Wednesday..
Four of those wins came against Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opponents, helping drive the Leopards up the standings.
The Leopards’ larger bench allowed them to quickly assert dominance over the Beavers, which was visibly shown in the water with substantial man-on-man defensive coverage.
“This is a new and improved Caltech and they have some really good athletes on the team so we definitely did not take them lightly and we watched film on them and prepared for them and I think the girls played a great defensive game,” head coach Pat Beemer said. “That’s really our jam now and we just want to be really one-on-one and relentless individual defenders.”
La Verne shut out Caltech in the first quarter, going 4-0 as the Leopards were quick on the transition to offense, something the Beavers did not seem prepared for.
In a span of about two minutes, three La Verne goals made it into the cage with the efforts of sophomore attacker Alexis Ramirez with a shot right in front of the goal, sophomore center Olivia Taylor with a drive into the goal for a nearside shot, and senior center Nancy Trinh with an impressive backhand.
With 16 seconds remaining in the quarter, graduate student attacker Jassmine Kezman remained patient despite the dwindling seconds on the shot clock and passed to senior utility player Abby Nuñez for a shot to dent the twine and send the match into the second quarter.
“One hundred percent, our communication was there,” Nuñez said. “Also switching once the opponent comes over, we would communicate the switch and I really think our communication was the key component to helping us win.”
The Beavers initiated the quarter with their first point of the game by junior driver Emma Gurcan. About two minutes later, Kezman was there to cushion the lead after a remarkable spin around the defender for a steal, scoop and score.
“Going into Caltech, I knew that it was not going to be as competitive as the other few games but that gave us the opportunity to practice our own plays offensively and defensively,” Kezman said. “And just to get deep in our bench and try and get others to score and assist as well.”
The Leopards kept the ball floating and on their next offensive drive when Trinh snuck the ball past the goal with the help of junior utility player Tamara Holstrom on the assist.
Caltech gained their second goal from a shot by junior center defender Riya Shrivastava, who lobbed the ball in, just skimming the ball past senior goalkeeper Kate Carlyle’s fingertips.
The final two La Verne points of the half were guided by sophomore attacker Brianna Zapata, who scored and assisted for Taylor’s goal to lead, 8-2, going into half time.
“I think being super active and super hungry to always be moving and always trying to find a new look and never staying static will be really important for us,” Zapata said. “I feel like we were getting really early looks to our center and it is something that definitely needs to continue for the rest of the season because with that very positive things happen.”
Going into the third quarter freshman goalkeeper Katrina Hitchcock was summoned from the bench to take the place of Carlyle.
It was another quiet period for the Beavers as they were only able to trim their deficit by one. However, three goals made it into the cage for the Leopards as two were sanctioned by Kezman and the other one came from senior utility player Nanea Mattson.
The fourth quarter caused some anxiety for the crowd as the Beavers had a late rush of momentum and tied the goals scored in that quarter with the Leopards, 3-3. Nonetheless, the large gap the Leopards acquired the other 24 minutes of the match was too difficult to top and the Leopards took the 14-6 win.
Against the Whittier Poets on Wednesday, the Leopards led from start to finish, with six different players scoring goals.
The wins improve the Leopards’ record to 9-12 overall and 5-3 in SCIAC, good for third place in the conference.
The team will stay on the road as they take on the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas Wednesday before returning home to face the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens for senior night April 15.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at email@example.com.