The men’s water polo team fell short of a victory Saturday in the Inland Empire Tournament at the La Verne Aquatic Center, losing to conference rivals Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 10-5.
The match between the conference foes was the first of the day beginning at 9 a.m. Although the game was early, eager Leopard fans filled the seats at the aquatic center to cheer on the men’s water polo team.
“It’s pretty good to get the stands filled this early,” sophomore utility Derek McCaulley said. “We like to get loud, so it helps when people come out.”
The Stags wasted no time in the water and got out to a quick 3-0 lead.
As the Leopards attempted to go shot for shot with the Stags, they could not break the stifling defense of CMS. The Leopards ended the first quarter trailing 3-0.
“I feel like we could have come out stronger,” senior utility Arturo Villalpando said. “We always run the risk of a slow start.”
The Leopards’ struggles continued in the second quarter of play as the Stags scored their fourth unanswered goal to begin the quarter.
“We got ourselves a lot of opportunities, we just weren’t able to finish,” McCaulley said.
The match seemed out of reach as the Stags scored another goal on a six-on-five power play extending their lead to 5-0, but Villalpando responded with a goal putting the Leopards on the board for the first time.
Shortly after Villalpando’s goal senior two-meter Shane Hurter put another one in the back of the net bringing the Leopards within three goals of the Stags.
With the first half coming to an end the Leopards gave away an easy goal making the score 7-2 at the half.
The Leopards had a hard time getting the ball passed sophomore goal keeper James Kelly.
“I think we were a little anxious to start the game,” head coach Alex La said.
The apparent vocal leader in the pool for the Leopards was senior goalkeeper Brendan Jones, who was trying to keep his team motivated, but also had his hands full with the Stags offense.
“I thought our goalie, Brendan Jones, did a really good job today,” Villalpando said.
CMS came back to the pool and started where they left off by scoring two more goals.
With their backs against the wall Villalpando was able to score his second goal of the game. The third quarter ended with CMS leading, 9-3.
La Verne held CMS to only one goal in the fourth quarter and Hurter scored his second and third goals of the match, but it was still not enough to mount a comeback.
“The second half was pretty much even,” Villalpando said. “Our defense got better as the game went on.”
The Stags left the pool with a 10-5 victory over the Leopards.
The Leopards went winless in the tournament losing to Long Beach State, 16-6, Concordia, 17-10, and UC Irvine, 21-5. Concordia is currently ranked 19th in the nation. The Leopards lead that match at the end if the third quarter 9-8.
“The freshmen and the new guys really stepped it up,” La said. “They were a very new team.”
With a lot of freshmen in the pool La is hopeful looking forward into the season.
“I think now we’re going to develop more roles,” La said. “They have worked so hard and they want to win.”
La Verne are now 0-6 to start the season.
The Leopards will compete in their alumni game 11 a.m. Saturday at Las Flores Park.
The team will then travel to UC Davis for the Aggie Shootout tournament Sept. 22-23.
The Leopards will face Chapman, UC Davis, Santa Clara and the University of Pacific.
Christian Orozco can be reached at email@example.com.