The start of the 2008-2009 men’s water polo season has been a little rough for the young Leopards, who have started 0-6, but all signs point to success in the future.
Last weekend the team took part in the Inland Empire Tournament.
In the opener, the Leopards lost in a close game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 8-7.
The Leopards started out well, jumping out to a 4-1 lead in the first quarter but could not keep the offense going.
The game was highlighted by a long score by senior Captain Vince Makuch from beyond half tank as time expired in the first.
In the second game against Pomona, the men kept the game close going into the final quarter with a score of 7-5, but their lack of depth did not allow them to keep the pace, and they lost 14-7.
The third game of the tournament was up against the strong University of the Pacific team that resulted in a 18-3 final score.
The team then rallied in its final game to put up a fight against conference opponent Whittier.
The game was close throughout. The Leopards went into the half tied with the Poets at one a piece, and the game went down to the wire.
Unfortunately, the La Verne men were edged out in the end, 4-3.
Last weekend may not look like the most successful stretch for the Leopards in the win column, but according to Makuch, who led the Leopards with 11 goals on the weekend with six coming against Pomona-Pitzer, there were many high points to build on.
“The team camaraderie was there; you just couldn’t see it on the scoreboard,” Makuch said.
Makuch added, “There are lots of new guys who are learning the system. As long as we challenge SCIAC schools agressively, we should be all-right.”
“As long as we continue the hard work, we’ll get some W’s,” junior transfer Errol Stump said,
Only three seniors have returned from last season. This has led to a lack of experience in the pool, but at the same time makes way for new players to gain considerable minutes and opportunities to excel. And excel they did. The new additions to the team made their presence known early as two freshmen scored in the first quarter of game one against Claremont.
Coach Alex La saw lots of good things from his young team.
“[The team] played great; they came a long way in one week,” La said. “It was a complete 180 from what we were.”
La was happy with the group defense his team played, but added that his players had to develop on offense.
He believed that as long as they make some progress on the offensive side of the ball, it should lead to success.
Fortunately for the men, conference play does not start for a month, so they have plenty of time to make the necessary improvements.
La was also pleased with the play of his goalie Danny Walters, who is only in his second year playing water polo.
“Danny shows a lot of heart in the cage,” La said.
Walters had nine saves against Claremont and an impressive 16 coming against Whittier.
The La Verne men will be competing next in the Cal Lutheran Tournament starting Saturday.
Chris Weedon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.