Signs and balloons decorated the stadium for lone senior Anastasia Muratalla, but the women’s soccer team dropped a 2-0 decision Saturday to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in what was a tightly contested match throughout.
It was senior night for the Leopards. They played an Athena team that they fell to in overtime by a 3-2 margin on Sept. 28 in their first matchup of the season.
“I think we controlled most of this game,” coach Eddy Geenen said. “There were little mistakes we gave up to concede the goals and that is what haunted us.”
The first half was controlled by La Verne with relentless chances in the attacking half of the field.
They forced CMS to clear the ball back to the Leopard defenders or out of play.
However the Athenas could never regain possession or momentum for a long spell that spanned the majority of the half.
La Verne found its strongest chances beginning in the 34th minute.
Sophomore forward Marisella Macias managed to pick the pocket of an Athena defender.
Macias broke away from the trailing defense and charged towards the goal and finished the play with a shot that ended up in CMS freshman goalkeeper Molly Freed’s arms.
Two more chances for the Leopards followed in the next two minutes.
In the 35th minute junior midfielder Kristina Roche sent a dangerous cross in from the right side with multiple Leopards looking to send the ball to the back of the net.
However, the ball was safely cleared by the defense.
The next minute, a race for a loose ball by Freed and a Leopard almost gave the home team the lead.
But Freed managed to win the narrow race.
“It just doesn’t go our way,” Macias said. “It’s not like we’re a bad team but it doesn’t go our way.”
The last threatening chances for either team were in favor of the Athenas in two consecutive minutes as well.
In the 43rd minute, gasps filled the air when an Athena shot pounded the crossbar.
In the 44th minute a cross by CMS sophomore forward Kerry Moller found its way directly in front of the Leopard goal.
The ball was surely going to be converted into a 1-0 lead for the Athenas.
Miraculously the ensuing shot was tipped up and over the goal by freshman goalkeeper Delanie Pacheco.
Coming out of halftime CMS found their share of chances early on and finally converted in the 59th minute.
Pacheco sent a ball into the midfield that was won by Athena sophomore midfielder Shaundra Ullman.
Ullman then passed it off to junior forward Madi Shove.
Shove took a few strides with the ball before she struck a low shot from the right side of the goal that was narrowly missed by Pacheco and broke the scoreless tie.
“I don’t know, I wasn’t placed right,” Pacheco said. “It kind of just slid under me. Very unfortunate.”
From the moment CMS scored the Leopards turned it on and earned their most threatening chances.
Those chances included a 61st minute corner and a 70th minute cross by sophomore midfielder Christine Camacho.
Another corner in the 76th minute was sent away after soaring into a crowded penalty box.
In the 80th minute freshman forward Tara Cofer shook free of the defense and took a shot that narrowly dipped in over Freed.
Freed matched Pacheco’s effort and barely managed to tip the shot over the goal.
The following corner was again cleared and Cofer had another shot in the 83rd minute swallowed by Freed.
“We’re just missing that polished finishing touch in front of goal,” Geenen said. “We are making chances it’s just the last touch.”
In the 85th minute CMS put away an insurance goal.
Shove made a strong move into the box and scored an impressive shot high to the nearside from a poor angle.
Despite the loss, Geenen was proud of the team.
“The spirit is always there,” Geenen said. “Every game the ladies play their hearts out. Skillfully and technically they’re getting better. We want to continue the progress we’ve made over the last five weeks.”
La Verne traveled to Orange to face off against the Chapman Panthers on Wednesday, falling 3-0.
The Panthers scored their first goal in the 13th minute by way of freshman midfielder Emma Castleton and did not find the net again until the 68th minute with a finish by freshman midfielder Olivia Do.
Chapman ended the game with an 84th minute goal by junior forward Aimee Evans.
La Verne was led by Macias and Cofer with two shots a piece.
Pacheco went the distance in goal, accruing six saves for the day.
The Leopards finished with five shots and one corner kick compared to the 19 shots and five corner kicks by the Panthers.
With one game remaining in the season and in their Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference season, Macias is looking to improve and keep focus.
“Just learn from the previous games and keep looking ahead,” Macias said.
“Practice the way we would play in games to prepare for the last two games.”
The Leopards, who hold a 2-12-3 overall record and a 1-10 SCIAC record, next play at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Redlands in the season finale.
Daniel Hargis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.