PASADENA, Calif. - After a disappointing performance last time out, Caltech men's soccer rebounded with a rousing effort versus visiting La Verne. Though the Leopards won the match, 2-1, the Beavers showed energy and skill in a stellar conference contest.
Coach Uribe asked his team to show its true character and the Beavers responded by outshooting their opponents 15-10 and taking control of the game from the first whistle. Several times Caltech got in behind the La Verne defense and fired dangerous crosses into the box which lacked only a final touch. The best chance fell to Marec Serlin who, with the keeper stranded, was unable to keep his 18 yard effort under the bar.
Sporadic La Verne attacks were quickly snuffed out with goalkeeper John David Feist (3 saves) sweeping up on the rare occasions the ball got past the Caltech defense. Juan Pablo Ocampo had a particularly effective first half shielding in front of the back four. Masaharu Ono redistributed the ball well to speedy wingers Evren Gokcen and Kevin Gao who launched repeated Caltech attacks. When the halftime whistle went off, the teams were deadlocked at 0-0.
In the 52nd minute, La Verne drew first blood. Center forward Nathan Gonzalez cut in from the left and, under strong pressure from Teo Wilkening, hit a shot that was unlikely to trouble the Caltech goal until it took a wicked deflection from Caltech defender Jared Schaeffer Reed and looped over Feist into the far corner for a 1-0 La Verne lead.
For the next 20 minutes the game was played mostly in midfield with Caltech forward Pedro Ojeda winning several flick-ons, but with no one able to get on the end of them. In the 71st minute though, Caltech deservedly leveled the game. Valentin Skoutnev won the ball in his own half and played a curling ball into the box into the path of Gokcen. As Gokcen was poised to connect he was shoved from behind and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Captain Serlin stepped up and coolly fired the ball to the left of sprawling La Verne keeper Greg Veron (3 saves) for his third goal of the season and leveled the score at 1-1 with 19 minutes remaining.
Unfortunately, the tie was broken almost immediately. A La Verne free kick was seemingly headed clear, but from 30-yards Ferdinand Estrada hit an unstoppable first time strike which nestled in the top right hand corner of the Caltech goal giving La Verne a 2-1 lead.
Caltech pressed for another equalizer with towering duo Adam Ball and Reed almost getting on the end of a succession of balls into the box. As La Verne (5-4-1 on season) tried to run down the clock it received a booking for time wasting. These tactics, in combination with some resolute defending, got the visitors to the final whistle with their one goal lead intact.
Caltech slipped to 0-9 on the season but can take encouragement from a game it was unlucky to lose and which kept a large crowd enthralled to the very end. Caltech hosts conference rivals Pomona Pitzer (6-2-1) on Wednesday at 4 pm.