Leopards lose nail-biter on senior night

Jack Janes
Sports Editor

Women’s soccer bid farewell to their seniors in a heartbreaking 2-1 loss at the hands of Whittier on Wednesday at Ortmayer Stadium for senior night.

These seniors were freshmen during the height of the COVID pandemic so their first season was canceled and their second season was a shortened one. Through all of the adversity, the seniors still managed to leave their mark on this program.

“The amount of emotional, physical growth that we saw out of them was tremendous,” head coach Lauryn Pehanich said. “And not only that but the leadership that they ended up providing with really only them having those two years under their belt, they created an awesome environment for everybody that’s returning.”

The seniors were honored right before kickoff and were recognized for their time and commitment at La Verne.

The scoreboard does not tell the whole story for this game. La Verne played well throughout the game despite losing 2-1. Shot on goal totals in this game were 11-8 in favor of the Leopards and La Verne generated scoring chances, but were unable to convert them.

The Poets got on the board 10 minutes into the game when junior midfielder Katie Alexander fired a shot from about 30 yards out that found the back of the net to open the scoring.

The Leopards did not get down after the goal and went on the attack, getting some quality scoring chances. Sophomore midfielder Courtney Okumura made a nice play where she cut inside on the left wing and fired a shot on goal but Whittier junior goalkeeper Beth Juarez made the save.

A few minutes later, senior midfielder Alison Flores came just feet away from a goal when her shot trickled just to the left of the open net.

The first half ended 1-0 Poets despite the Leopards tacking on six shots on goal and out-shooting the Poets 12-5 in overall shots.

Just 45 seconds into the second half, the Leopards finally broke through with a goal. The ball bounced out towards the middle of the field and right to Okumura, who delivered a chip shot that tied the game at 1-1.

The Leopards continued to control the ball and put pressure on the Poets’ defense with cross passes and scoring chances. The Leopards also made good defensive plays to prevent the Poets from gaining momentum, including a diving save by junior goalkeeper Abigail Macedo.

Moments later, Poets sophomore forward Camille Verlich sent a free kick toward the net and Macedo misjudged, allowing the ball to trickle into the goal to give the Poets a 2-1 lead with just under 20 minutes left in the game.

The Leopards gave their best efforts to come back and tie the game but were unable to convert on their chances. But there was not a lack of opportunities.

Senior defender Shelbie Mueller made a nifty play and deked the Poets defender to give her space for a good scoring chance, but her shot went right to the Poets’ goalkeeper. The Leopards also had four corner kicks in the second half that were unable to lead to goals.

Despite their efforts, the clock ticked down to zero and the Leopards lost, 2-1, closing the book on the 2023 season.

“My time here at La Verne has been a lot of fun,” senior midfielder Amanda Perez said. “A lot of the friendships that I’ve made here, I’m excited to see what that has in store for us in life. But the strongest thing for me is just my friendships and relationships that I’ve created.”

The Leopards also played in three games over fall break and lost 3-0 at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Oct. 14, tied 1-1 against Chapman at home on Oct. 18 and lost 2-1 at Cal Lutheran on Saturday.

“The team environment was super welcoming when I came in,” Flores said. “It’s just a great group of girls that I’ve played with throughout my three years here and I couldn’t ask for any more.”

The Leopards finished the 2023 season 4-8-5 overall and 2-6-4 in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.

“I made a lot of memories, made a lot of friendships here, and being my senior year, I couldn’t ask for a better team,” senior goalkeeper Evelyn Saldivar said.

Jack Janes can be reached at jack.janes@laverne.edu.

Jack Janes, a senior journalism major, is sports editor of the Campus Times and a staff writer for La Verne Magazine. He is also a staff photographer for both publications. He previously served as a Campus Times staff writer.

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