Sarah Van Buskirk
On their senior day ode to the graduating class, the La Verne women’s water polo team dropped their last home game of the regular season to the undefeated Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, 17-10, Saturday morning at the La Verne Aquatic Center.
“We played really well, we just made a lot of dumb mistakes,” head coach Pat Beemer said. “I looked at the scoreboard at one point and we were down by six and it didn’t feel like we were down by six because it felt like we were in this very competitive game by doing super positive offensive things then just throwing it to the wrong team.”
Undeterred by the defeat, the Leopards kept a positive energy at Las Flores Park as family, friends and fellow Leopards came to enjoy the bittersweet day on the green and orange decorated pool deck. Prior to the game, each senior was recognized for their dedication to the program over the past few years, as the PA announcer mentioned what their future plans will be after graduation. Each senior Leopard was accompanied by family and friends with bouquets of flowers and hand-made signs to show their support.
After the tears of joy, it was time to play ball. The excitement carried over into the first quarter and the Leopards came out hot. After the Sagehens won the initial sprint, they were quick on the goal attempts.
Sagehen junior attacker Namlhun Jachung went for a shot, but Leopards senior goalkeeper Kate Carlyle made a block and drew a two-meter from her saving tip. The Sagehens still had possession and wasted no time throwing the ball towards the cage again. Carlyle’s diving save from Sagehen junior attacker Abigail Wiesenthal’s attempt generated high energy on the home bench and the Leopards were on the offensive transition.
After a pass from Carlyle to graduate student attacker Jassmine Kezman to senior center Nancy Trinh, Trinh was able to draw a 5-meter after aggressive efforts with Pomona-Pitzer’s defense.
Kezman took the shot and banked the ball in to put the Leopards on the board first.
“It was definitely challenging getting pressed in the high lanes, so we constantly had to move on offense and defense,” Kezman said. “It was hard to release because Pomona-Pitzer has a really good defensive press.”
However, that momentum swung the other way as the Sagehens unloaded three powerplay goals and an even strength goal in the matter of three minutes. Leopard freshman utility player Maddie Grove, with the help of sophomore attacker Brianna Zapata, was able to get one through the Sagehens defense before the end of the quarter. Pomona-Pitzer executed more more into the cage and led going into the second quarter, 5-2.
The next quarter was Sagehen dominant for the first half, they produced four goals and snuffed the Leopards offense until senior utility player Nanea Mattson took charge for La Verne. Mattson generated the three goals the Leopards had that quarter, with the last one being a mid-pool buzzer beater going into half time. Pomona-Pitzer snuck one more goal in and led 10-5 heading into the locker rooms.
“We struggled to get on our legs and get a good read to finish the pass,” Mattson said. “We couldn’t put away easy goals which eventually led us to get behind and we were unable to come back from that.”
The third quarter resumed just as the last quarter left off with the Sagehens making a quick five goals and holding the Leopards to none until Zapata broke the silence for La Verne along with sophomore center Olivia Taylor chipping in to the tally sheet.
In the final quarter, the Leopards took the reins as they outscored the Sagehens 3-2 with production by Mattson, Zapata and senior utility player Abby Nuñez bringing the final score to 17-10, Sagehens.
“We were rushing a little bit trying to make better passes to make a goal,” Nuñez said. “I think that got a little carried away in trying to rush the play rather than settling down and finishing it completely.”
The Leopards traveled to Redlands to face the Bulldogs on Wednesday for a pivotal 7-5 win and to advance their record to 6-5 in conference play and 10-14 overall.
As the season comes to the end and the Leopards in the fifth seed in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, they will travel to Caltech tomorrow for their final game of the season and in hopes of qualifying for the SCIAC semi-finals on April 28.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.