Leopards lose home opener

La Verne freshman attacker Brooklyn Young looks to take an open shot against Fresno Pacific on Saturday at the La Verne Aquatic Center. The Leopards lost to the Sunbirds, 13-10. / photo by Christopher Rodriguez
La Verne freshman attacker Brooklyn Young looks to take an open shot against Fresno Pacific on Saturday at the La Verne Aquatic Center. The Leopards lost to the Sunbirds, 13-10. / photo by Christopher Rodriguez

Sarah Van Buskirk
Editorial Director

In the 2024 season home opener, the women’s water polo team played their closest game yet against the Fresno Pacific Sunbirds, but fell short 13-10 on Saturday morning at the La Verne Aquatic Center. 

“It’s basically a brand new group, we don’t have a ton of kids who have returned,” head coach Pat Beemer said. “We have a bunch of new really talented players but a lot of them are hurt… I had five kids out this game and I really think that would have been a massive difference because mostly the same six played the whole game.”

With a roster full of freshmen, the Leopards are learning what connections between the squad work better than others. La Verne’s dynamic in the first half led to little offensive possession and many turnovers. 

The Leopards kept a tight defense for a majority of the first quarter until less than three minutes remained and Sunbird junior center Tatum Benson received a pass in the middle to put the first point on the board. Benson did it again about 40 seconds later to put Fresno Pacific up 2-0.

La Verne sophomore attacker Maddie Grove scored La Verne’s only point of that quarter from a long shot into the corner. 

“We have built a lot as a team,” Grove said. “The month between the last game and today really helped, we are definitely getting really close, we have had a lot of out of pool bonding time so hopefully we’ll keep the momentum going.”

Sunbird junior attacker Bella Alcazar deposited one more into the cage and Fresno Pacific began the second quarter up 3-1.

By halfway through the second quarter, Benson put up two more for the Sunbirds which extended their lead, 5-1. 

On the offensive transition, a long lob shot from Leopard freshman attacker Brooklyn Young was no good but junior center Olivia Taylor followed up for the rebound and got the Leopards back into the game. 

“I think our biggest problem is we haven’t played that many games and the ones we did play were so long ago,” Taylor said. “It is basically the beginning of the season again.”

With less than two minutes in the half, Young set up another great scoring opportunity which led to freshman attacker Reiley Burton cutting the Sunbirds lead to 5-3.

Sunbird sophomore center Emma Cook and Benson dented the twine twice more before each team headed to the locker rooms.

The third quarter started active as the Sunbirds opened up with a powerplay goal from sophomore utility player Regan Azevedo, followed by an even strength goal from Benson.

In retaliation, Burton received a long pass from Leopard freshman attacker Maya Garcia-Hale to score. To continue positive momentum, graduate student utility player Sumi Rudisky’s five-meter penalty on Sunbirds sophomore attacker Maddie Murad was also good, 9-5. 

For the Sunbirds, Cook quickly found the net with the assist accredited to freshman utility player Sierra Coyne. 

As the rally continued, Young skipped a shot in after an impressive triangle passing rotation from La Verne, 10-6.

A minute passed and Alcazar added a tally for the Sunbirds. Fresno Pacific continued their push on offensive as Cook scored on a powerplay, 12-6.

In the final seconds of the quarter, Burton scored from the help of Grove on a powerplay. A big save from Leopard sophomore goalkeeper Katrina Hitchcock sent the game into the last quarter, 12-7.

La Verne freshman utility Maggie Cook looks around for an open teammate to take a shot against Fresno Pacific sophomore goalkeeper Katrina Hitchcock on Saturday at the La Verne Aquatic Center. The women’s water polo team lost, 13-10, to fall to 0-3 overall for the season. / photo by Christopher Rodriguez
La Verne freshman utility Maggie Cook looks around for an open teammate to take a shot against Fresno Pacific sophomore goalkeeper Katrina Hitchcock on Saturday at the La Verne Aquatic Center. The women’s water polo team lost, 13-10, to fall to 0-3 overall for the season. / photo by Christopher Rodriguez

Burton opened up the fourth with a six-on-five goal assisted by Garcia-Hale, 12-8. The Subirds also received a man advantage moment and Cook matched the Leopards point for their final point of the game.

“With it being our first game we’re running a lot of new plays, we are getting into the groove of things so it was a little static at times but I think towards the end we really started to pick it up, figure out what’s working and what’s not,” Hitchcock said.

The Leopards went on to tighten the deficit with goals from Young and Grove but could not execute enough for a final score of 13-10.

The Leopards are on the road to play in the Claremont Convergence tournament at Chapman, Whittier, Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at 10:15 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday, as well as 8 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. Saturday.

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

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.

Christopher Rodriguez is a senior photography major and a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine.

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