In what was one of the most important games for the Leopards this season, the men’s soccer team played flat and not up to its full potential, but it was able to edge out Caltech, 1-0, on Wednesday at Ben Hines Field.
Needing to win their last two games to make it into the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference postseason tournament, the men were expected to come out and dominate against a much weaker Caltech team, just like they done on Oct. 5 when they beat the Beavers, 5-0.
La Verne started the game off trying do too much instead of playing simple soccer.
“We came out slow,” senior defenseman Angel De Alba said. “We were over confident. We thought it would be easy, but they came out harder this time around.”
One of the Leopards’ first goal attempts came in the eighth minute when sophomore Peter Careaga gave freshman midfielder Fernando Almejo a perfect pass to the goal, but Caltech goalkeeper Marcus Lucas blocked the shot.
Careaga had another chance when he got the center pass from freshman midfielder Ulises Espinoza, but the shot went over the goalkeeper’s finger tips.
La Verne and Caltech did not get many good shots off in the first half, all of them were either over the net or right to the goalkeepers, resulting in a scoreless tie going into half time.
“It was frustrating,” freshman defenseman Jared Taylor said. “We were all off our game and we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Taylor made several good passes toward the center of the goal but his teammates could not capitalize on it.
The second half did not start off any better for either team.
Caltech and La Verne seemed to just be playing keep away for the first five minutes of the second half. Both teams looked like they did not want the win.
The Leopards began to shout to each other “pick it up” and “let’s go, wake-up,” and that’s exactly what they did.
The men began to take more shots on the goal and in the 62nd minute senior forward Taylor Hart took a hard shot that just barely went over the crossbar.
Caltech began playing aggressively as they were getting frustrated with their inability to get shots on goal.
In the 67th minute freshman midfielder Fernando Almejo was knocked by a Caltech player inside the penalty box.
This was the chance La Verne had been looking for the whole game and they took full advantage of it. De Alba took the penalty kick for the Leopards and gave them their one and only goal of the game.
“I was a little nervous right before the shot because they have a really good keeper,” De Alba said. “But I was confident I would make it.”
The penalty kick was all La Verne needed. With this win the men put their destiny in their own hands.
“We’re just depending on ourselves know,” De Alba said.
“Another big win on Saturday and that will do it,” Taylor said.
At 11 a.m. tomorrow against Pomona-Pitzer at Ben Hines Field, the Leopards will play their final regular season game and it is crucial that the come out with energy and focus.
A win for La Verne would mean its first playoff berth since the 2008 season.
But it will not be easy. The teams have identical 6-7 SCIAC records and the winner will get the fourth and final berth in the postseason tournament.
“Hopefully we can put it away against Pomona,” Almejo said.
Elsie Ramos can be reached at email@example.com.