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Water polo looks to make splash

After a week of conditioning in the harsh summer sun, graduate assistant Emerson Gant helps head coach Alex La prepare the water polo team for the first game of the year, which place at the UCLA Invitational Tournament, where they played the national champions USC Trojans. The Leopards were slain by the Trojans, 23-3. / photo by Zachary Horton

After a week of conditioning in the harsh summer sun, graduate assistant Emerson Gant helps head coach Alex La prepare the water polo team for the first game of the year, which place at the UCLA Invitational Tournament, where they played the national champions USC Trojans. The Leopards were slain by the Trojans, 23-3. / photo by Zachary Horton

Taylor Perez-Graham
Staff Writer

After ending last season with a record of 6-28 overall and 3-7 in conference, the men’s water polo team has high hopes for making it into the top four in the Southern California Intercolleg­iate Athletic Conference for the 2012 season.

Going into the new season, the team has lost its top scoring graduates, Andrew Mackay, Kyle Thorsness and Emerson Gant.

Gant is now an assistant coach for the team.

“The seniors that graduated last year scored the majority of our goals,” head coach Alex La said.

“We’re going to be looking to our returners to really step it up, and our freshmen.”

Although the Leopards lost top players from last year, there is still talent to be seen in the pool this season between the returners and the new players.

Among the talented returners is senior and only attacker on the team Arturo Villalpando, junior defender Daniel Hargis, senior goal keeper Brendon Jones, sophomore goal keeper Dan Newell and senior utility Shane Hurter.

“We are working so hard right now, we are putting in a lot of time and effort and I think it’s going to step up from the previous years,” Hurter said.

This season there will be many new faces in the pool to look out for.

To add to the Leopards’ talent is sophomore exchange student Alex Navarro from the University of Barcelona.

The Leopards also added five freshman standouts: Jordan Ashley, Matt Vega, Bryan Jimenez, Viken Huening and Troy Williams.

“We have a lot of freshmen and we have a really kind team,” Navarro said. “They are helping me out a lot with the training and the language of water polo here.”

The team has bonded throughout their four-a-day practices and the players said it has only made them stronger.

“We had a lot of team chemistry early on, which a lot of the returners were noticing, we bonded quickly,” Hurter said.

La, a University of La Verne alumnus, is going into his fifth season as head coach with the team.

“We have a tough weekend ahead of us,” La said. “But we are hoping to get our first win with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on the 8th.”

The team is currently 0-2 after the tournament this last weekend against two Division 1 schools, USC and Pepperdine.

Although La Verne lost 23-3 to USC and 20-3 to Pepperdine, the team remains optimistic.

“The crowd adds to the excitement to the game and helps with the momentum,” Hurter said. “It only makes us want to win even more.”

The Leopards will host the Inland Empire Tournament this weekend.

The team’s first SCIAC match is at 9 a.m. Saturday at Las Flores Park against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.

Taylor Perez-Graham can be reached at taylor.perez-graham@laverne.edu.

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