Leopards tie Occidental with Handel’s first collegiate goal

La Verne senior defender Shelbie Mueller leaves Occidental’s defenders behind Saturday in Ortmayer Stadium. The Leopards and Tigers played to a draw, 1-1. / photo by Nareg Agopian
La Verne senior defender Shelbie Mueller leaves Occidental’s defenders behind Saturday in Ortmayer Stadium. The Leopards and Tigers played to a draw, 1-1. / photo by Nareg Agopian

Taylor Fukunaga
Staff Writer

The Leopards women’s soccer team faced the Occidental Tigers on Saturday at Ortmayer Stadium and came away with a 1-1 tie.

They also celebrated Youth Night in honor of La Verne President Pardis Mahdavi’s Leap Into Action Pledge.

After the pregame ceremony featuring members of local girls’ soccer teams, the Leopards came out strong and kept the ball on Occidental’s side of the field using lots of passes and strong defense. 

“We stuck to a plan of fluid movement on the field and that’s what allows us to penetrate and get close to the goal,” head coach Lauryn Pehanich said. 

Four minutes into the game, the Leopards scored their first goal when freshman defender Maren Handel kicked it in from the 35-yard line. 

“At first I thought the ball was going to go over the goal,” Handel said. “Then I saw it drop and I didn’t believe it at first. To score my first collegiate goal was such a great experience.” 

Coach Pehanich said that while it was an untraditional goal for the team, it brought lots of energy moving forward into the rest of the game. 

The Leopards continued to put pressure on the Tigers and remained cautious of the openings in their defense. 

“One of our goals is to be attack-minded when we get the ball driving forward. We want to win those games by scoring those needed goals,” junior defender Miranda McGarry said. 

The Leopards and Tigers often used their goalkeepers for a change in direction. They stayed busy and La Verne junior goalkeeper Abigail Macedo ended the game with seven saves. 

The Tigers scored not too long after Handel’s goal with a penalty kick from freshman forward Mia Steadman after a yellow card. 

Sophomore midfielder Courtney Okumura said that the many foul calls made by the referee could have influenced the direction of the game. She said that the team did very well at keeping their composure and focus regardless of the foul calls made out of their control. 

“We’re happy with the tie, but we do want to get those wins because they will become more important when we go further into the season,” Okumura said. 

Coach Pehanich said that with eight games left in Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play, their goal is to make the top four teams that get to advance to the post-season tournament. 

La Verne currently sits in seventh place.

“I like to bring the girls back to what’s happening today rather than whatever happened the day before, we need to be present in the moment,” Pehanich said. “The players respond very well to us. They will rise to the challenge and stay focused on our next goal.”

The Leopards faced Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at home Wednesday, losing 1-0. They are now 1-2-3 in conference play and 3-4-4 overall. Their next matchup will be against the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Claremont. 

Taylor Fukunaga can be reached at taylor.fukunaga@laverne.edu.

Leopards junior goalkeeper Abigail Macedo off a shot by Occidental freshman forward Maile Fukushima on Saturday at Ortmayer Stadium. The game finished in a 1-1 draw, giving La Verne an overall record of 3-3-4. / photo by Nareg Agopian
In the pre-game ceremony of La Verne’s match against Occidental on Saturday, the Canyon Hills Soccer Association and Legends FC youth teams were both recognized. They were honored for representing the University’s core values, including a commitment to educational excellence. The game ended in a draw, 1-1, with freshman defender Maren Handel scoring the only goal for the Leopards. / photo by Nareg Agopian

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