Benjamin Van Kleeck (No. 22), midfielder for La Verne, takes control of the ball while Caltech defender Alan Pezeshki (No. 17) tries to retrieve it toward the end of the first half. The game was held Saturday at Ben Hines Field. The scorching sun and accompanying heat of the day did not stop the Leopards from running down the Beavers with a final score of 6-3.
As the regular season winds down to its final game, the La Verne men’s soccer team is sitting pretty with a place in the playoffs after a week of clutch play that included defeating the Caltech Beavers, 6-3, last Saturday, and Pomona-Pitzer, 2-0, on Wednesday.
In the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, only the top four teams make it to the conference playoffs, leaving the remaining four to sit at home waiting for next year.
Following two road losses to conference contenders Redlands and Occidental, the Leopards were in need of a win in order to avoid being one of those teams to enter the offseason early, which they got on the road against Claremont.
This left the men sitting on the bubble regarding the necessary fourth place going into Saturday’s game. This meant a win was vital to keeping the team in the race for one of the top spots in the conference.
Despite the need for a victory, it was a slow start for La Verne as the Beavers would get on the board first with a score by Daniel Beylkin in the fifth minute.
Shortly after, sophomore defender Donn Capps got the Leopards on the board and tied the game at one.
La Verne would take the lead moments later with a goal by senior forward Joseph Valencia, only to have it taken away minutes later by a Caltech goal, leaving the game tied at two going into the half.
Coming out of the half, the men were intent on getting the much-needed victory, scoring three goals before the Beavers could reply with a score by Jonathan Yeung in the 73rd minute.
The game started for La Verne with a Capps goal and finally ended the same way late in the contest, clinching the ULV win, 6-3.
Five different La Verne players scored in the game in addition to Capps two goals on the day.
Facing ULV was a huge game against Pomona-Pitzer Wednesday afternoon.
The men tied the Sagehens Oct. 4 with the game ending with a score of 0-0 after two overtimes.
In addition to being a must win, Wednesday’s game was the last league home game for La Verne and senior day for Valencia, Adan Jaime, Matt Dominguez, Steven Lane, and Gilad Hoffman.
With wins in both the final two games of the regular season, the Leopards would have a chance of pulling off a second place finish in conference and a possible home game in the opening round of the conference tournament.
On the other hand, a loss could push the men out of the playoffs all together, so winning out was especially important for the team.
“It’s a tough challenge, but it is realistic as long as everyone steps up to the occasion.” said assistant coach Eddy Geenen, before the Pomona contest.
Going into Wednesday’s game against Pomona-Pitzer, senior goalie Adan Jaime said, “It’s a must win. We watched a lot of game tape; we know what we have to do.”
In regards to it possibly being his last game on Ben Hines Field, Jaime said, “It sucks knowing tonight could be the last time I step out on that field and also knowing I may never play at this level again. I will play again, but the skill and level of commitment won’t be the same.”
Remembering his own last collegiate game, Coach Greene said, “It was bitter, sweet. Bitter because it was my last game and realizing my college-playing career was ending. Sweet because of all the great memories I had with all my teammates on and off the field.”
Geenen, is an alumnus of the La Verne men’s soccer program.
While the game was possibly the last home game for all of the seniors, for senior forward Steven Lane, it was also the first.
After two seasons away from the game due to knee surgery, Lane was finally cleared Monday after having to go through the league and NCAA for approval.
“I’m happy I even get to play one game. I wish I had more games, but I’ll take what I can get. We’re pumped, and we’re ready for it. I’ve been playing a lot outside the team so I’ll be ready. I’ll be anxious on the field, but once I touch the ball, I’ll be fine.” said Lane before Wednesday’s game.
With all the hype and importance surrounding the game, the La Verne men’s soccer team stepped up and pulled off a huge win Wednesday.
The game’s first goal came on a penalty kick in the first half by sophomore defender Angel De Alba. The men then put an insurance goal on the board with a score by sophomore forward Hector Lepe in the second half to seal the win.
After the game, sophomore defender Wesley Lucas said, “I feel superior right now. After dominating Pomona, I feel like we could defeat any team in the conference. After coming off big wins, we tend to play overconfidently. This time, we are going to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“This has been an incredible season. We put ourselves in a hard situation and worked hard to get to where we are. One more game, if things go accordingly, we could possibly end up in second in conference. First things first, we have to win Saturday [tomorrow],” head coach Crescencio Gonzalez said.
The team will now go into a hostile Whittier environment tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in the final regular season game of the year for the Leopards.
The men will be looking to end the season strong and match the 3-0 score they posted against the Poets on Oct. 8 and put the pressure on the other teams in conference.
Chris Weedon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.