Sarah Van Buskirk
With smiles all around, the men’s water polo team waved goodbye to a season full of growth and celebrated captain Peter Trinh for his senior day in a 23-7 win against the Whittier Poets at the La Verne Aquatic Center on Saturday morning.
“The main thing I’m going to miss is coming to practice everyday with these guys,” Trinh said. “I think that is the one thing a lot of athletes fail to really love till the end.”
Trinh, being the only player to graduate in the spring, showered in the love and support from family and friends creating a sea of “Go Peter Go” signs on the benches.
Due to COVID-19, Trinh is eligible for another season at ULV. Trinh said graduate school is in the back of his mind, so this may not be the last time the pool deck will roar with cheers because of the infamous “Aquatic Dragon.”
Trinh finished the 2023 season with 111 goals and a .392 shot percentage. Trinh acted as an anchor at center and accumulated 31 assists and 22 steals. With eight goals, Trinh was at the top of the offensive leader board versus the Poets on Saturday.
The Leopards played exceptionally as a team, with eight of the 10 Leopards scoring goals.
La Verne’s up-and-comers, freshmen attackers Jordan Baker and Nicolo Buono, are a dynamic duo who have a past playing with each other at Palm Desert High School. Baker racked up four goals and an all-star performance defensively with seven steals. Clutch player Buono tallied up three goals and three assists.
Keeping a balance on offense and defense, junior defender Ryan Beery scored two goals and had three steals.
Beery gained visible confidence in his offensive opportunities this season and he reflected on the growth he made, which he credited to the shallow bench challenge the Leopards could not swim away from.
“Playing on such a small team with very low numbers is hard because there is a lot less time to break, a lot less subs and a lot more pressure for the players who are in the water for 90% of the game,” Beery said.
Junior defender Sawyer Nering had his limelight offensively throughout the season being a dependable player, as he scored two against Whittier. Junior attacker Steven Rios scored on a power play and again on a 5-meter penalty shot. Junior center David Gutierrez and sophomore utility player Jadan Javier each contributed a goal.
Javier is a close friend to Trinh even outside of the pool.
“Peter is a ball handler, goal scorer and someone we look to at any given point in the game,” Javier said. “As a teammate and a friend, Peter is one of the best.”
Head coach Pat Beemer reflected on the team’s camaraderie and work as a unit.
“They taught me a lot of resilience,” Beemer said. “I said it to them after the game, they could have found any number of excuses to not put in the work and not be dedicated to the game but they didn’t.”
The Leopards ended their season No. 7 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings with a 7-19 overall record and a 4-8 conference record.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at email@example.com.