Associate Sports Editor
A misdirected field block into the goal with 43 seconds remaining sunk the hearts of La Verne faithful as the women’s water polo team fell to Pomona-Pitzer, 13-12, Wednesday at Las Flores Park.
In the closest game in the two clubs’ history, La Verne scared the defending Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champions on a day that the sun bothered each goaltender.
“(La Verne head coach) Alex La does a great job recruiting and preparing his girls. This was by far the closest game on the girls’ side in my time,” Pomona-Pitzer sixth year head coach Alex Rodriguez said.
“In the first and second quarters we had a lot of nerves and we couldn’t figure out our matchups,” La said.
The Sagehens came out firing, going up 2-1 early and forcing La Verne to fight for their water with an all-out press defense.
Junior center Brianna DiCarlo finished a garbage goal in front of the cage with 47 seconds left in the first half to clip the deficit to 8-6 but a perimeter strike by Pomona-Pitzer with two seconds left deflated any Leopard momentum.
“In the beginning we weren’t playing our game. We were able to bring it up in the second half and they got a quick lead because we didn’t do our game plan,” freshman attacker Bethie Ross said.
To open the second half, Ross, who finished with four goals, rose above the defense to put one past Sagehen netminder Sarah Tuggy to bring the score to 9-7.
Freshman attacker Alex Escobar finished with four goals, including the game-tying goal on the power play with 1:08 left.
“We worked as a team well today. If you look on the score sheet more than two people scored and it was a group effort,” Escobar said.
The Leopards had countless counterattack opportunities but failed to convert to take control of the game.
“There were situations that we need to capitalize on but other than that it was a good game,” Escobar said.
Freshman goalkeeper Shane Burgess led the way in goal for the Leopards, getting a paw on 13 shots.
La Verne effectively shut down the reigning SCIAC Player of the Year, Tamara Perea, holding her to three goals.
“This was the championship team from last year and they graduated three or four people but they still return the player of the year and the goalkeeper. I’m real proud of the girls and they came a long way from day one,” La said.
“They’ve come together and this was their best game of the year.”
The loss gives La Verne a 1-1 record in SCIAC with an upcoming contest at 11:00 a.m. against Occidental at Taylor Pool in Occidental.
“I think we can beat and lose to anyone and so can La Verne,” Rodriguez said.
“La Verne will put fear into everyone else in the conference.”
Daniel Hargis can be reached at email@example.com.