The men’s water polo almost pulled off the upset on Wednesday against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, but fell short, losing to the Stags 12-9.
The Stags are currently tied for the top spot in the Southern California Intercollegiate Conference with a record of 5-1.
“They are one of the best in our conference and it was great to see that we can go out and compete with one of the top four teams out there,” head coach Alex La said.
Close to 30 fans filled the bleachers at Las Flores Park.
Both fans from La Verne and Claremont came to support their teams.
The Stags, who are ranked No. 1 in the Collegiate Water Polo Association poll for Division III, came out aggressive on defense and followed by scoring three early goals.
The Leopards. ranked No. 8 this week, tightened up and did not let them score for the rest of the period.
The first period ended with the Stags up 3-1, with senior utility Kyle Thorsness scoring the La Verne goal.
At the beginning of the second period the Leopards saw good looks on offense.
However both team’s defenses did not allow either to score.
“This was definitely one of our better games,” freshman driver Jon Jarvis said.
Many fans compared the Stags defense to a “shark attack.”
Many of the Stags swarmed to the ball every time the ball was passed to the center and created turnovers for the Leopards.
Towards the end of the second period there was a momentum shift, and it favored the Leopards.
Senior center Andrew Mackay helped La Verne come within two points near the end of the first half.
But with seconds winding down in the half, the Stags put one in the back of the net.
The Stags, who won last year’s SCIAC championship, went into halftime with a 6-3 lead.
Thorsness and sophomore driver Daniel Hargis started off the third period with two quick goals bringing La Verne within one point of the Stags.
“Our assistant coach (Vince Makuch) is really good at getting us pumped up and he did that at halftime,” Jarvis said. “It was a morale thing in the third.”
The intensity was high for the Leopards and the Stags’ frustration began to show.
“We came out strong and our fans really pushed us,” junior utility Arturo Villalpando said. “I am really happy with the way we played.”
Right as things seemed to be going La Verne’s way, the Stags created space and went up 9-6 at the end of the third period.
With the game close entering the fourth, La Verne had to capitalize on their chances.
“We played an experienced team and we had our chance to win the game,” La said.
The Stags came out and scored four straight goals on the Leopards’ defense, making the score 12-6.
“We came out flat in the fourth,” said Jarvis.
With the game slipping away from the Leopards, senior utility Emerson Gant and Villalpando stepped up their play to give La Verne a second chance.
La Verne’s last minute attempt at a rally was not enough to get the victory.
It was very apparent that the Leopards did not get many calls to go their way.
As a result the Stags scored on several six on five opportunities.
In the end there were two teams who fought very hard to get a win, but only one could claim the victory.
“We just have to be ready for next week at the (SCIAC) tournament where anybody can beat anybody,” La said.
With the win the Stags now move into a first place tie with Cal Lutheran and Pomona-Pitzer in SCIAC regular season play while La Verne remains tied for fifth place with Occidental.
With last week’s 15-7 win over Occidental, the Leopards own the tiebreaker over the Tigers.
“I think the best we can do now is fifth place, so we have to play hard and get some wins next week,” La said.
La Verne now holds a 5-21 record overall and a 2-4 record in SCIAC play with one game left in regular season play.
The Leopards will face No. 10 ranked Whittier at 11 a.m. Saturday at Las Flores Park, then they will face Vanguard at 4 p.m. to complete the doubleheader.
Christian Orozco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.