LA VERNE, Calif. — The University of La Verne men's soccer team diagnosed and fixed exactly what went wrong in its last two losses and beat Occidental, 3-1, on Saturday night at Ortmayer Stadium.
It was a huge win for La Verne. With two losses in a row coming into the game, the Leopards had lost ground on first-place Redlands and fallen back to the middle of the SCIAC pack, into the thick of the race for a spot in the SCIAC Postseason Tournament.
La Verne now sits in second place in the SCIAC standings at 6-3-1 (8-3-1 overall). Occidental, who came into the game in top form having won five of its last six games, falls to 5-5-0 in the SCIAC (6-6-1 overall).
"This win means a lot for us moving foward," La Verne coach Trevor Persson said. "It keeps us up in the standings and we had to slow down a [Oxy] team that was making a charge into the top-four. We just had to cool off and stick to the game plan and our guys did a very good job."
Briley Venti led the charge for La Verne. He opened the scoring in the eighth minute when he finished off a sharp pass from Justin Funes, who had beaten his man to the end line on the right side and dropped off the perfect pass.
Venti's second goal came in the 27th minute and it was almost identical to his first. Auden Foxe beat Oxy's left back to the outside, charged to the goal line and pulled back a pass to Venti, who rolled it past Oxy's Dante Amodeo to give the Leopards a 2-0 lead.
"We weren't trying to expose any particular side," Persson said. "We were just stressing penetrating to the baseline and stop cutting in and crossing to the back side. We wanted to penetrate to the end line as much as we could and find guys that were crashing the net."
The Leopards, who had dominated the shot count in the last two games but weren't efficient with their attempts, turned the tables against the Tigers. Oxy outshot La Verne, 14-7, but only put two on target while the Leopards converted three of their attempts into goals.
"We worked on quality, not quantity, this week," Persson said. "We had 18 shots last game but only three on frame. We said, 'if we're going to get a shot, let's get a quality shot.'"
La Verne comfortably made it to halftime but Oxy, as it has done ever since Persson took the reigns in 2014, made things interesting. Just 10 minute into the second half, Tigers forward Grayson Burdon put a good header on a corner kick but La Verne goalkeeper Josh Ramirez made a finger tip save. But the rebound fell right to Burdon and he finished it off to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Oxy continued to put its trademark pressure on La Verne but it was Burdon who put his team at a critical disadvantage. Burdon committed two harsh fouls that earned yellow cards just 40 seconds apart with 11 minutes remaining in the game to put the Tigers at a man-disadvantage and the Leopards pounced.
With Amodeo playing up high to compensate for the Oxy's disadvantage, Ferdinand Estrada released Christopher Wong into a 1-on-1 chance with a long ball and Wong chipped it over Amodeo from 35 yards out to seal the game for La Verne in the 86th minute.
The Leopards were solid on defense, making right read for most of the game and blocking a shot after shot in the field.
La Verne is back in action at Caltech on Wednesday.