The Leopards’ strong defense shuts out Whittier.
The men’s soccer team won its second conference game of the season on Saturday, 1-0, after a physical match against Whittier.
The Leopards defeated the Poets in a tight Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference match at Ben Hines Field.
“It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t according to plan, but it was a win,” coach Crescencio Gonzalez said.
The first half of the game was very physical, although no penalties were called.
Goalie Jonathyn Lomeli hurt his ankle with 39 minutes into the first half, but returned strong when he saved a goal 11 minutes later.
Lomeli had four saves on the day. Him along with his defense shut out the Whittier offense.
“I gave it my all,” said freshman goalie Jonathyn Lomeli.
“I tried to help us get back in motion with the winning team that we have.”
The referee made his first call with five minutes left in the first half, and continued to clean up play in the second half.
“The ref tightened it up in the second half,” explained Gary Friedell, father of sophomore defender Brandon Friedell. “And it’s a good thing he did because it could have gotten ugly.”
Players were thrown off by the aggressiveness of the opposing team, and seemed a little shaken early on in the contest.
With only minutes before half time, freshman midfielder Michael Vargas was able to steal the ball from the opposing team, but before Vargas could make his quick getaway, he tripped over the ball twice and lost it to the other team.
The first half ended in a scoreless tie.
The parents and fans battled an issue as well, the sun. It was 110 degrees at the 4 p.m. game time with no shade in sight.
Regardless of the heat, the fans stayed to cheer on the Leopards.
With only 19 minutes left in the second half, La Verne junior Nahavi Mendoza took the ball down the field on a breakaway with only the goalie to beat.
The Whittier goalie challenged Mendoza, only to be defeated as Mendoza fired the ball past the goalie scoring the only goal of the game.
The goal was Mendoza’s second of the year.
“The goal was a gift,” Mendoza said. “They were a really aggressive team. It wasn’t a good game.”
The Leopards continued SCIAC play on Sept. 26 with a 3-1 win against Caltech.
La Verne’s winning streak came to an end, however, after a 2-1 loss to the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens on Wednesday.
The loss drops the Leopards’ overall record to 3-6, but they maintain a strong conference record of 3-2.
La Verne will be back on the field at 11 a.m. Saturday when they take on Cal Lutheran in a conference matchup at Ben Hines Field.
The Leopards find themselves in fourth place in SCIAC, behind first place Pomona-Pitzer, second place Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and third place Redlands.
Charlie Neff can be reached at email@example.com.