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Leopards to lean on experience for success

Daniel Hargis
Sports Editor

The women’s soccer team looks to turn over a new leaf for the 2011 season, featuring nine returners who saw the pitch as freshman, allowing the Leopards to start where they left off a year ago.

The Leopards have started the season with a 2-1-2 record and believe they are on track for greater success than last fall.

“We’re starting off in a better place,” junior defenseman Sarah Ruden said. “We don’t have as many new girls. We’re starting off on the same page this year.”

This year’s team still relies on youth with only one senior, Stasy Muratalla, and only a handful of juniors, but with a strong core of returners along with sophomore transfer McKenna Gooden the Leopards look to reach the top four of the Southern California Intercolleg­iate Athletic Conference.

“A lot of those girls had experience on the field,” head coach Wendy Zwissler said. “This will be their second year with field experience. They will still make mistakes but less than the average sophomore.”

La Verne looks to make major strides from last year’s performance and have shown early signs of success.

“We want to continue building and moving forward as a team and of course win games,” junior midfielder Kristina Roche said. “I think the team is doing really well so far.”

“I think that it is going to be a lot better than last year,” Ruden said.

“In the games we’ve played so far we’ve had some good moments.”

Zwissler expects her captains: sophomore midfielder Marisella Macias, Gooden and Ruden to lead La Verne on and off the field.

Aside from the captains, freshman defenseman Taylor-Erin Carter and Roche have also highlighted the Leopards’ season thus far.

“Sarah and Taylor are doing a fine job,” Zwissler said. “Kristina Roche has stepped up huge. McKenna and Sella are spark plugs.”

Each NCAA Division III team must deal with a special kind of adversity that Division I and II teams do not face; the inability to practice as a team during the offseason until only a few days before their first contest.

“We are getting our touches down and conditioning in check,” Zwissler said. “The girls need to be totally committed to the team.”

The big difference between this season and last is that they practice and play away from the University’s campus due to the removal of Ben Hines Field.

La Verne practices at La Verne Lutheran High School and plays its home games at Damien High School, but the relocations have not taken any effect on the team thus far.

“I don’t think it bothers us at all,” Roche said. “It’s kind of nice to not practice on half of a baseball field and we’re all really excited for the new stadium and we’re focusing on that.”

The Leopards traveled to Oregon this past weekend, finishing with a 3-1 victory over St. Catherine and a 0-0 tie after two overtimes against Lewis & Clark.

La Verne opened SCIAC play with a 2-0 victory against the Poets of Whittier on Wednesday in Whittier.

La Verne resumes SCIAC play at 7 p.m. tomorrow at their temporary home, Damien High School, against the Sagehens of Pomona-Pitzer.

Daniel Hargis can be reached at daniel.hargis@laverne.edu.

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