CLAREMONT, Calif. — Rey Julian Castillo scored an incredible eight goals and the University of La Verne men's water polo team had a two-goal lead going into the fourth quarter against one of the best teams in the nation.
But the Leopards showed its youth and No. 16 Pomona-Pitzer outscored La Verne, 6-1, in the final frame to take a 14-11 win on Wednesday night at Haldeman Pool.
The game proved how much the young Leopards have improved over the season. After starting the season 2-14, La Verne claimed two straight wins over Cal Lutheran and Chapman last week to insert itself into SCIAC contention and gave the Sagehens all they could handle.
It was a game of wild momentum swings neatly delineated by quarter.
Castillo got himself a hat trick just in the first quarter to help the Leopards get out to a 4-3 lead at the end of first. But the Sagehens clamped down on defense and shut the Leopards out, 4-0, in the second quarter to take a 7-4 lead into the break.
A big run by the SCIAC title favorite did not faze the Leopards. Castillo found the back of the net in the opening minute of the third quarter, Jared Hopley got on the scoresheet and Castillo scored another to tie the game at 7-7. Pomona-Pitzer's James Baker briefly stopped La Verne's momentum with a goal to put the Sagehens back up by one, but Castillo scored two more goals and Rex Sample got one to give the Leopards a 10-8 lead after three.
But Pomona-Pitzer had one more run left in the tank. The Sagehens rattled off five unanswered goals to start the final quarter to take a 13-10 lead with 3:41 to go and never looked back. La Verne had some chances but Sagehens goalie Daniel Diemer made five saves in the final stanza to keep the Leopards at bay.
Deimer finished with 13 saves for the Sagehens and La Verne netminder Ian Hernandez had 10.
Baker finished with seven goals, including four in the fourth quarter, and Adam Ward chipped in four for Pomona-Pitzer.
The Leopards are back in action against Whittier at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Las Flores Park.