CLAREMONT, Calif. — The University of La Verne women's water polo team picked up wins over Cal Lutheran and Occidental at the 2015 SCIAC Women's Water Polo Championship, hosted by Pomona-Pitzer from April 25-27, to finish fifth in the tournament.
The Leopards went into the tournament in sixth place but leapfrogged Redlands, who went in tied for fourth, to finish fifth overall.
It was a massively successful season for first-year coach William Rodriguez and the Leopards. La Verne earned its first wins over Cal Lutheran (March 28) and Occidental (April 8) in nearly a decade and notched five SCIAC wins for the first time in recent memory.
The Leopards dropped the first game of the tournament to eventual champion Whittier on Friday but turned it around in the final two days.
Much like in their first meeting, La Verne beat Cal Lutheran in a nail biter in which neither team led by more than two goals and there were five ties.
The Leopards got out to a 3-1 lead early in the second quarter on a goal by Catie Tuning but the Regals came back to tie it at 3-3 and it was back-and-forth the rest of the way. The Leopards went a goal ahead on two different occasions but the Regals found an answer each time and took the lead for the first time early in the fourth quarter with a goal by Jordan Card.
But Tuning knotted it back up at 6-6, Maddie Lovrensky came up with the game winner with just under three minutes to go and the defense shut things down to seal the win for La Verne. Hailey Westwood (10 saves) helped keep the one-goal margin down the stretch, with the help of the crossbar, as a last-ditch effort from Cal Lutheran hit the bar and stayed out.
In the fifth-place match against Occidental, La Verne took a 4-2 lead in the second quarter and held it the rest of the way.
Occidental scored two goals in the last 40 seconds of the first quarter—including a buzzer beater—to tie it at 2-2 but La Verne held the Tigers to just one goal in the next two quarter to grab control.
Lovrensky and Lora Marquez-Salgado scored the lone goals of the second quarter and the Leoaprds took a 7-3 lead into the final frame.
The Tigers scored three of the first goals of the fourth quarter to trim the deficit to 8-6 with five minutes to go, but the Leopards once again finished strong as Tuning, Rojas and Randall each netted a goal and defense kept the Tigers out of the net the rest of the way.
Westwood made 27 total saves over the weekend to wrap up her strong rookie season.
La Verne will look to improve even further next season as it will return seven players and complement the roster with a full recruiting class.