The University of La Verne men’s soccer team continued its season in the Bay Area last weekend in search of victories against Cal State East Bay and UC Santa Cruz.
The Leopards kicked their weekend trip off with a 2-1 victory over East Bay. They were led by junior Gilad Hoffman, who scored a goal in the first half to put the Leopards ahead. The Leopards demonstrated a great defense by keeping the Pioneers scoreless in the first half. Brandon Emilio scored another goal for the Leopards in the second half, assisted by Hoffman to seal the win. The Pioneers’ only goal came late in the game on a penalty kick.
In the second game of the Northern California trip, the Leopards were overpowered by Santa Cruz, 6-0. Santa Cruz came into the game ranked No. 2 in Division III and had previously defeated ULV, 2-0, in a game last season at Ben Hines Field.
The Leopards defense did not have any answers to Santa Cruz’s high-octane offense. With the loss, ULV dropped to 2-3 on the year.
“Everyone played bad,” sophomore defenseman Andrew Tillehkooh said. “We were sleeping on the field.”
Even though the Leopards were dismantled by Santa Cruz, they still have high hopes for the season. With the entire starting lineup returning, the Leopards can improve last season’s record of 6-10-4, and contend for a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.
A vital component will be if the Leopard midfielders and strikers can step their game up and score.
When the opportunities are there, they have not been able to capitalize.
The midfielders are lead by sophomore Ruben Trujillo, who earned All-SCIAC honors last season.
Playing along side of Trujillo will be junior Daniel Aguirre, senior Eduardo Rodriguez and sophomores Alberto Valle and Francisco Escobedo.
“Our goal is to finish in the top three in conference,” head coach Crescencio Gonzalez said. “The key will be if our defense can keep us in games.”
Gonzalez feels the Leopards’ best strength is their defense.
The defense is lead by senior Eddy Geenen, junior Eric Gomez and Tillehkooh. If the defense can control the game, the chances of the Leopards prevailing are endless.
The Leopards also have second team All-SCIAC forward Steven Lane returning who brings experience and intensity on the field.
The Leopards are looking to bounce back against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday.
The Leopards went 0-7-1 last season against Pomona-Pitzer, Redlands, Cal Lutheran and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
If the Leopards intend on improving on their fifth-place finish from last year they must compete with these SCIAC power-houses.
“We’ve got better players, a new coach and a new formation,” said Rodriguez.
Another advantage that may be in favor of the Leopards is that they have had the same group for the last two years.
If the team can cook up the right formula, ULV can look forward to seeing great things from the Leopards this season.
Darnell Gilbert can be reach at email@example.com.