It has been a tough season for the women’s water polo team, finishing conference play with a 1-6 record. With such a young team, it has been an uphill battle to find momentum and execute collectively rather than individually as it fell to Redlands, 13-5.
Lone senior Anjuli Palos De La Rosa was honored before the game for her dedication to playing water polo for two years at La Verne.
“It’s been a rebuilding season, but we’re all looking forward to next season so we can be used to playing together,” freshman attacker Alex Escobar said.
Redlands capitalized on an early lead and dominated the entire game without giving La Verne much hope.
“We struggled with ejection problems, stopping counter attacks and we didn’t convert chances to score,” assistant coach Cody Bell said.
It might have been a struggle for the Leopards, but it was an exciting game for sophomore goalie Lauren Shepard, making her first start in goal during SCIAC play.
“It felt good, I tried to play how I can play when I’m having fun and just relax,” Shepard said.
A vocal Shepard did a good job communicating with her teammates.
“We see things out there they don’t see,” Shepard said. “We see the entire field; it’s our job to tell them what’s going on.”
Freshman center defender Katie Lacek put La Verne on the board early in the first quarter, but the Leopards could not match up against the overpowering offense of the Bulldogs.
Redlands’ offense was able to string power plays together to find the back of the net with three players each scoring hat tricks.
While the Bulldogs might have had offensive opportunity, the Leopards’ defense retaliated with its best game of the season.
“Our defense improved drastically,” Bell said. “Our defensive effort was the best of the season.”
While La Verne’s defense finally found its momentum, its offense struggled with shots directly to the goalie, the posts, or not on goal.
However, junior utility player Erika Vargas led the Leopards in scoring with three goals on the day.
Vargas finished her hat trick in the fourth quarter as she lobbed the ball over Redlands goalie Tiana Singley’s hands.
Escobar took chances in the game and finished with a lot of shots on goal, but only found the back of the net on a penalty shot in the third quarter.
La Verne will enter the SCIAC tournament seeded seventh and will face the second-seeded Bulldogs at 10 a.m. today at Las Flores Park.
“For the tournament, we want to upset some teams in the first or second game, play hard and finish better in the tournament than where we are now,” Bell said.
“We expect great improvement, we’ve done great things today defensively that will benefit us for the tournament,” Vargas said.
As for next season, the Leopards plan to take this year’s lessons and apply them for a winning future.
“We hope to have more depth next year with a better record,” Bell said.
Krista Franceschini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.