Sarah Van Buskirk
In its Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener, the men’s water polo team played timidly against No. 1 ranked Redlands on Saturday morning at the La Verne Aquatic Center.
The match ended with Bulldog dominance granting them an 18-6 victory.
“In the third quarter we finally settled down and they started to do their thing,” head coach Pat Beemer said. “We made defensive stops that led to offensive advantages; they just need to replicate that for 32 minutes of game time.”
In the past, due to La Verne’s small roster, by the third quarter the Leopards had run out of steam. However on Saturday, the third quarter was their best period all game.
The locker room talk for the home team instilled a wave of motivation as they came out looking to trim the deficit.
Around the five minute mark of the third quarter, freshman attacker Nicolo Buono initiated the first tally on the scoreboard after halftime with the help of senior center Peter Trinh setting up the shot.
“In the locker room we just talked about how we weren’t coming off with energy in the first half,” Trinh said. “With our limited roster it’s hard to maintain that high energy without dudding out but it’s something we are improving on.”
A minute later, Buono deposited another one in the cage with the powerplay advantage and the assist from freshman attacker Jordan Baker.
The Leopards’ defense held the Bulldogs a majority of the third quarter and Redlands did not score until the final minute, with even strength and on a powerplay.
Despite Redlands’ 42 shots on goal, Beemer said junior goalkeeper Eric Bates gained his confidence back against the Bulldogs compared to the previous weekends. Bates left the pool with 11 saves and a steal.
“There were a couple of mistakes I made before, like not staying on my legs and keeping a calm composure,” Bates said. “I was expecting the unexpected shots because everyone was a threat as they had shooters from everywhere and we just have to make sure we press or gap wherever we need to.”
In the first period, Bates generated an impressive save that shifted into a Leopards’ powerplay. From the transition, Trinh accounted for the Leopards’ first goal of the game.
At the end of the first quarter the Bulldogs led, 5-1.
Redlands outscored La Verne 5-2 in the second quarter. Junior defender Sawyer Nering rolled off the momentum from sophomore utility player Jaden Jaiver’s previous shot that went wide, as well as Baker’s credited steal, stumping the Bulldogs’ offensive attempt and regaining Leopard possession. Following up, Nering scored with the help of Javier, 6-2.
“Based on our performance against Redlands and them being the top SCIAC competitor, we have a lot to look forward to for the rest of the season.” Nering said.
Javier received three ejections throughout the game and was removed during the fourth quarter.
After two more goals from the Bulldogs, Baker banked a shot in for the Leopards’ last goal of the half.
Fatigue struck the Leopards in the final quarter and the Bulldogs went on a run, 6-1. However, junior defender Ryan Beery snuck a goal in for the Leopards with less than two minutes left in the game.
On Wednesday, the Leopards fell, 18-13, against the No. 2 Cal Lutheran Kingsmen. La Verne’s record now stands 0-10 overall and 0-2 in SCIAC play.
The Leopards host the Gary Troyer Tournament at 12:20 p.m. Friday, beginning with a matchup against Fresno Pacific. Later in the evening they face Mount St. Mary’s at 5:40 p.m.. Saturday, La Verne faces Wagner at 11:40 a.m. and Cal State Fullerton at 3:40 p.m.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.