Water polo snaps losing streak for first win of the season

Senior center Peter Trinh gets ready to make a pass over Fresno Pacific junior utility player Eugenio Maldonado during their match Friday at the La Verne Aquatic Center. Trinh scored five goals for La Verne throughout the game, notably three goals in the first half. / photo by Amanda Torres
Senior center Peter Trinh gets ready to make a pass over Fresno Pacific junior utility player Eugenio Maldonado during their match Friday at the La Verne Aquatic Center. Trinh scored five goals for La Verne throughout the game, notably three goals in the first half. / photo by Amanda Torres

Sarah Van Buskirk
Editor-in-Chief

In a passionate attempt, the La Verne men’s water polo team fought for their first win of the season, 13-12, against the Fresno Pacific Sunbirds during the Gary Troyer Tournament Friday afternoon, hosted at the La Verne Aquatic Center. 

“We have been telling the boys all year that for us to be successful with such a short roster we have to do two things that contradict each other,” head coach Pat Beemer said. “We have to hurry up and be patient because there are many times were are pushing in transition where we have Nico (Buono), we have Jordan (Baker), we have Ryan (Beery) all ahead of the pack and then if that fizzles out, we now have to use every second of this clock so that we are being efficient with our time.”

The Leopards won the initial sprint as well as every other quarters’ jump off the line, for the first strike of the match. Junior defender Ryan Beery secured first possession for La Verne as he quickly passed it to freshman attacker Jordan Baker for an alley-oop pass to freshman attacker Nicolo Buono for the goal. 

The Sunbirds also scored on their first possession with sophomore attacker Forrest Gray on the third scoring attempt within the winding down shot clock after a block by Baker and another by senior center Peter Trinh as the Leopards defense used their hands-up strategy.

“Going back to the last time we played them, which was in the Inland Empire Tournament (a 16-15 loss), a lot of us wanted to redeem ourselves for that game because we could’ve won as well,” Trinh said. “Our energy starting off was a lot better too, which was great because we really wanted to win this one just to prove to everyone that we are not a losing team and we can get wins.”

La Verne junior defender Sawyer Nering prepares to score against Fresno Pacific during their match Friday at the La Verne Aquatic Center. The Leopards won, 13-12. / photo by Amanda Torres
La Verne junior defender Sawyer Nering prepares to score against Fresno Pacific during their match Friday at the La Verne Aquatic Center. The Leopards won, 13-12. / photo by Amanda Torres

After a steal credited to Buono, Baker skipped the ball into the cage, 2-1.

The Leopards’ offense to defense transition was more balanced compared to previous games, allowing them to have a faster scoring advantage and swift return to defense. 

Halfway through the first period, Trinh ripped one in to extend La Verne’s lead to 3-1. 

Gray deposited another for the Sunbirds but Trinh retaliated, which ended the period with the Leopards up 4-2. 

Junior defender Sawyer Nering has been demonstrating his strengths in the front core four as he scored the first two goals of the second quarter, putting La Verne up, 6-2. 

Fresno Pacific’s sophomore utility player William Hoyle broke the silence for the Sunbirds with about two minutes left in the half but Trinh found a way to snuff their excitement on the following play, 7-3. 

With less than a minute left to halftime, Gray tallied one more for the Sunbirds as they entered the locker room down, 7-4.

The small roster exhaustion settled in for the Leopards in the third quarter and the Sunbirds came out looking for redemption as they outscored La Verne, 7-2, and took the lead with about two minutes left in the quarter. Goals scored by the Leopards in the third quarter went to Trinh and Buono.

Down by two entering the final quarter, Baker remained patient and took charge himself, trimming the Leopards’ deficit 11-10.

“Our energy and our mentality was so much better this game compared to the last game. Even when they started to come back in the third quarter, I don’t think any of us were like, ‘aww it’s done.’ We were still hungry to win,” Baker said.

Sunbird junior driver Jacob Renevier increased Fresno Pacific’s lead but Trinh sought revenge and put the Leopards back to trailing by one.  

La Verne junior defender Sawyer Nering goes for the goal while Fresno Pacific junior utility players Eugenio Maldonado (5) and senior defender William Green (3) try to block the shot Friday at the La Verne Aquatic Center. Nering scored two goals for La Verne in the second quarter. The Leopards won, 13-12. / photo by Amanda Torres
La Verne junior defender Sawyer Nering goes for the goal while Fresno Pacific junior utility players Eugenio Maldonado (5) and senior defender William Green (3) try to block the shot Friday at the La Verne Aquatic Center. Nering scored two goals for La Verne in the second quarter. The Leopards won, 13-12. / photo by Amanda Torres

Two minutes later, a timeout was called by La Verne, which followed a clutch goal by Beery to tie up the game.

With less than two minutes left of the game, the Leopards acquired a power-play opportunity where Baker finished the attempt and put La Verne back in the lead.

The final seconds trickled down and the Leopards seized the win.

“We were just hungry for a win, especially against this team because it was a tough, tough loss last time so we came in knowing we are the better team and we showed it regardless of our numbers of bench players,” junior goalkeeper Eric Bates said.

The squad could not continue that winning streak as they left the tournament with a close 16-15 loss later Friday evening against Westcliff. On Saturday, the rain put a damper on the Leopards’ energy for a 18-9 loss to Wagner in the morning and a 19-13 loss against the Cal State Fullerton Titans in the afternoon. 

The Leopards will travel to Chapman to face the Panthers and return to Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play at 11 a.m. Saturday. They will remain on the road for another SCIAC matchup against the Whittier Poets at 7 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Slade Aquatic Center.

Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at sarah.vanbuskirk@laverne.edu.

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Sarah Van Buskirk is a senior journalism major with a concentration in print and online journalism. She is the Spring 2024 editorial director for the Campus Times and has recently served as editor-in-chief, sports editor and staff writer. She is also currently a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine, and a staff writer for La Verne Magazine.

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