While spectators tried to stay out of the heat, the action was wet and wild Saturday at the La Verne Aquatics Center as Occidental attacker John Wensman prepares to block a pass from La Verne’s driver, Errol Stump. The Tigers drowned the Leopards, 14-3.
Despite all the emotion of senior day, the men’s water polo team came up short in its final conference match of the year last Saturday against the Occidental Tigers, losing 14-3.
“I’m really impressed on how my guys battled day in and day out. Taking Pomona to a two goal game, we brought that momentum in Saturday; we were only stopped by their goalie,” head coach Alex La said.
“I really felt like their goalie had a great game. We had a lot of opportunities. We had five or six shots that, if it were a different goalie, would have been goals,” La added.
Before the game began, the seniors on the team – Vince Makuch, Julian Czerwiec and Gerald Bolson – were recognized for their years of commitment to the La Verne men’s water polo program.
“Vince is strong all around, and he has the most experience. Julian is a tenacious driver, and Gerald is probably the fastest swimmer in SCIAC,” La said.
“It’s a little disappointing and heartbreaking to know that my career is over, but I came to La Verne to finish playing my last two years of eligibility and get a degree, and I accomplished my goals,” Makuch said.
Regardless of the final score, the Leopards kept the game interesting through the first half.
For a team with only three marks in the win column, this positive momentum is something to focus on in the off-season.
Occidental currently sits in a tie for second in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“I feel we played pretty solid. I just think we need to pick up the intensity from the start of the game and keep it going throughout the game,” freshman Alex Hacker said.
The La Verne men were the first to get onto the board early in the game with a goal by junior Errol Stump, with the assist coming from freshman Andrew Mackay.
After a couple of quick goals by Occidental, the Tigers attained the lead and did not return it for the remainder of the match.
The 2-1 score held up going into the second quarter, thanks to a big save by goalie Danny Walters in the final seconds of the first quarter.
Occidental was the first to strike in the second, but La Verne pulled the game back within one after a goal by freshman Alex Hacker, bringing the score to 3-2 in favor of the Tigers.
Before the half, senior captain Makuch added another goal onto the board for La Verne.
Unfortunately, the Tigers found the back of the net three times to make the score 6-3 going into the half.
The second half was not kind to the Leopards.
The men did not find the net again in the second half, but Occidental racked up eight more goals, with five coming in the final quarter of play.
Luckily for the Leopards, the team is only losing three seniors at the end of the season and hopes to build on its youth.
“All the freshman have come along great. I don’t think there is a team in SCIAC that plays freshman as many minutes as I do. There are growing pains now, but it’s something they need to fight through. They are getting a lot of experience,” coach La said.
“It’s been a rebuilding year; we’ve learned a lot from the upperclassmen as well as Coach La. We hope to keep getting better for next year,” Hacker said.
Makuch further emphasized the sentiment. “It’s a rebuilding year. We’re taking each loss with a grain of salt. As long as the freshmen learn something from each game, then we’re taking it as a win,” he added.
The team returns to action Friday in the SCIAC Championships against Pomona-Pitzer at 10 a.m.
The conference tournament is being held at Cal Lutheran and runs throughout the weekend.
“Each time, we played Pomona for one good half. Hopefully, Friday we can put those halves together and pull off a win,” Makuch said.
“We’re going into this weekend thinking positive and put our hard work to the test. There’s no holding back,” Hacker added.
Chris Weedon can be reached at email@example.com.