Sarah Van Buskirk
With a small roster of 10 players, the men’s water polo team scored 12 points against the Division I Cal State Fullerton Titans on Saturday morning at the La Verne Aquatic Center. Though the Leopards showed proof they can battle against Division I colleges with their limited roster, the Titans sealed the deal with a final score of 23-12.
The Leopards competed in the Inland Empire Tournament hosted at the La Verne Aquatic Center with Long Beach State, Biola and Fresno Pacific also in the rotation.
La Verne faced Biola Saturday night but fell, 18-10. Sunday morning was a tighter match against Fresno Pacific, however the Sunbirds capped off the win, 16-15. Sunday night was a hard game as the Leopards lost to Long Beach State, 28-2.
Head coach Pat Beemer said his outlook for the season changes from week to week but playing schools that are better than the ones in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference sharpens the sword for when it comes time to play games that really matter.
“We have to play better defense and it took us a half to adjust to playing against Fullerton,” Beemer said. “Fifteen goals against in the first half compared to eight in the second is something I really liked because we adjusted.”
A new goalie takes the cage this season as junior goalkeeper Eric Bates, a transfer from Grossmont, recorded 11 saves for the Leopards against the Titans.
“We need to rely on the help from defense and relying on each other,” Bates said. “I can even do better communicating to my players by telling them where to go or to gap up higher.”
Beemer said he does not want to just rely on Bates and will work to engage the defense more before the ball can reach the net.
Nevertheless, some young powerhouses are making a splash in the pool this year on offense as freshman attacker Jordan Baker scored four points against the Titans. Baker also made headway in previous games, specifically against Occidental on Sept. 2 (20-9) as he scored five goals, which was more than half of the total points scored on the Leopards end.
“It’s tough that we have 10 guys but it’s nice because we get a lot of playing time and we are progressing well,” Baker said. “I think the big thing for us is getting back on defense. Since we have such a small squad, we need to make sure we get back on defense and not focus entirely on offense.”
Freshman attacker Nicolo Buono finished with two goals and two assists against the Titans and continued to prove that a young, small team can leave a mark.
Returning power is still high as the offensive player of the game for the Leopards was senior center Peter Trinh. With 11 shots, five goals and an assist, Trinh took initiative as a veteran on the team and looks to lead throughout the upcoming season
“For me being a leader, it’s showing the younger guys how to go through the motions of the game and not letting anything bring you down,” Trinh said.
In the first quarter, Fullerton struck first but La Verne was not too far behind as the quarter ended 5-3 Titans. Despite the shallow roster, the Leopards never seemed to give up and pushed through at a high intensity across each quarter.
The Titans swam farther away with a 11-4 lead in the second quarter but the Leopards did not lack attempts. With a 6-15 total powerplay execution, the Leopards used the 6-on-5 exclusion to their advantage. Baker scored La Verne’s only goal in that quarter on a 5-meter penalty shot.
After returning from the locker room, the Leopards had a better second half as the Titans only outscored them 6-3 in the third quarter.
Junior defender Ryan Beery, also transferred from Grossmont, added to the scoreboard in the third quarter with an assist from Trinh. Beery is a clutch player and broke ground for the Leopards on Sept. 2, scoring two points against Loyola Marymount (30-10).
The final quarter picked up and goals scored by both teams were nearly even but the Titans had the leg up and outscored the Leopards, 6-5, for a final score of 23-12.
The Leopards will host the ULV Mini Tournament at the La Verne Aquatic Center tomorrow. They will play George Washington at 9 a.m. and Concordia at 3 p.m.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at email@example.com.