Leopards Win Thriller in SCIAC Opener

Leopards Win Thriller in SCIAC Opener

LA VERNE, CA — The Leopards had near misses all night, but just as the clock started to wind down, forward Jovanni Garcia came through, booting the game-winning goal with 68 seconds left to play to give the University of La Verne men's soccer team a thrilling 1-0 win over the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens Wednesday night.

Season Impact

The Leopards open SCIAC play 1-0 and improve to 5-2 overall. The Sagehens fall to 1-4-1 overall and 0-1 in conference play.

Game Winner

With under two minutes to play, the Leopards were called for a foul just outside their own penalty box. The Sagehens took a quick free-kick but the Leopards' defenders blocked the attempt and cleared it to the feet of James Coe. Coe tapped the ball to a charging Cesar Rodriguez who dribbled the ball forward and sent a perfect pass to a streaking Garcia.

Garcia gathered the ball, created separation from his defender at the top of the box and drilled a shot with his left foot to the top left corner of the net. Garcia, who as of Monday ranked in the top-10 nationally in both goals and points, now leads the SCIAC with eight goals and 20 points.

Close Call

With just 15 seconds left to play, Pomona-Pitzer's Jorge Guillen-Lopez gathered a pass at the top of the box, turned, and drilled a shot towards the right side of the goal. La Verne keeper Kevan Rehmani dove and deflected the ball just enough for it to bounce off the post. The threat didn't end as a Sagehen forward darted towards the loose ball and had a chance at the empty net. But the Leopards caught a huge break as the shot bounced off the crossbar. The Leopards kept the ball away for just long enough for the clock to hit zero.

Big Time Defending

The Leopards kept the Sagehens off the board in no small part due to the excellent play of Rehmani. The sophomore finished the game with nine saves with two of them coming in the final minute. 

Pomona-Pitzer had a chance to take the lead with just over 16 minutes left in the game. The Sagehens set up for an indirect free-kick just outside of the Leopards' six-yard box. With the Leopards walling up the front of the goal, the Sagehens let off a shot and Rehmani somehow jumped in front and snagged the near point-blank opportunity.

Near Misses

The Leopards had two great chance to get on the board in the first half. The first came with 23 minutes remaining in the period when Rodriguez gathered a ball at midfield and launched a pass just outside the left side of the box to Coe. The junior gathered and let off a long shot the just grazed the opposite post and ricochetted out.

A few minutes later Garcia had his own opportunity when he gathered a loose ball in the corner of the box. The junior sent a shot to the left side of the goal bouncing off the post and out. 

Garcia had another chance to put the Leopards up earlier in the second half. Just under 12 minutes into the period, Garcia took a free-kick from 20 yards out, that darted to the corner of the goal but just missed, bounding off the corner of the crossbar.

Next Game

The Leopards get back to nonconference action on Monday, September 23 when they travel to St. Katherine to face the Firebirds at 1 p.m. 

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