Leopards win SCIAC opener with sudden death goal

La Verne freshman attacker Reiley Burton battles Whittier junior utility Emily Flores for a loose ball in the Leopards’ match against Whittier on Wednesday night at Haldeman Pool in Claremont. The Leopards won the match, 9-8. / photo by Jack Janes
La Verne freshman attacker Reiley Burton battles Whittier junior utility Emily Flores for a loose ball in the Leopards’ match against Whittier on Wednesday night at Haldeman Pool in Claremont. The Leopards won the match, 9-8. / photo by Jack Janes

Sarah Van Buskirk
Editorial Director

During a deluged sudden death, freshman attacker Reiley Burton scored the winning goal for the women’s water polo team in their first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference match-up against the Whittier Poets on Wednesday night at Haldeman Pool in Claremont. 

“Scoring the winning goal was a super rewarding moment,” Burton said. “I am so grateful for my teammates and all of their amazing moments during the night that led to this win.”

The final score of 9-8 extended the Leopards’ overall record to 2-6 and started conference play on a positive note.

The Leopards held a solid defense in the first quarter, stopping the Poets from scoring. With less than a minute left junior defender Brianna Zapata scored for La Verne to take the first quarter, 1-0.

As the rain continued to fall and steam emerged from the pool, junior utility player Gaby Spoonhower scored the Poets’ way into the game during the second quarter. Back-and-forth play from both teams continued until Burton scored on a five-meter penalty shot after regaining possession and drawing a penalty in Poet territory.  

On the Poets’ next offensive opportunity, junior utility player Emily Flores deposited the ball in the cage after a smooth passing rotation from Whittier. 

But La Verne freshman attacker Brooklyn Young got the last word for the Leopards before halftime to push them back into the lead, 3-2.

Third quarter scoring began after a six-on-five power play for the Leopards with collaboration from Burton and sophomore attacker Maddie Grove, 4-2.

“Our defense in the first half of the game was really good and we shut them down really well,” Grove said. “We had some good passes too, it was just an intense environment.”

A rally was set in motion as Young pushed La Verne’s lead to 5-2. But back-to-back goals from the Poets put pressure on the Leopards, 5-4. 

Less than a minute remained and Young, with the help of graduate utility player Sumi Rudisky, distanced the score, 6-4. However, Poet freshman attacker Alexandra Haluska scored to put Whittier back in a tight race, 6-5. 

“I think we need to be a little more patient on offense,” Rudisky said. “There were moments we were panicking but I think it was just our first SCIAC game and we were getting the jitters out of the way.”

In the fourth quarter with two minutes left, Haluska tied up the game, 6-6. Three turnovers ensued before Poet junior utility player Kaley Kivett scored to put Whittier in the lead for the first time all game, 7-6.

To send the game into overtime, Rudisky, with the help of Grove, scored to tie it at 7-7 at the end of regulation.

Early into the first overtime period, Leopard junior center Olivia Taylor found the goal, which was also the only point scored that period. Kivett tied the game back up in the second overtime period.

Right off the line Burton stole the win for the Leopards in sudden death for a final score of 9-8.

“I am ecstatic we are going away with a win,” head coach Pat Beemer said. “Coming into the game we had a lot against us with players being out still but we got our nerves out of the way and had some miracle passes that helped us in the end.”

The Leopards travel to play against Saint Francis at 5 p.m. Friday at Whittier College.

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

Leopard freshman attacker Brooklyn Young retrieves a loose ball in the offensive zone from Whittier Poets junior utility Emily Flores during the women’s water polo match against Whittier on Wednesday night at Haldeman Pool in Claremont. La Verne beat Whittier, 9-8. / photo by Jack Janes
Leopard freshman attacker Brooklyn Young retrieves a loose ball in the offensive zone from Whittier Poets junior utility Emily Flores during the women’s water polo match against Whittier on Wednesday night at Haldeman Pool in Claremont. La Verne beat Whittier, 9-8. / photo by Jack Janes

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.

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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