Pacific Drops MPSF Tourney Opener
A dominating second half from top-seeded USC saw the Pacific men's water polo team fall 11-7 in its opening-round match of the 2011 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament Friday, November 25, at UCLA's Speiker Aquatics Center.
The Trojans got off to a hot start, going up 3-0 after scoring on their first three possessions. After a quick timeout, the Tigers responded with a counter-attack goal from sophomore Balazs Erdelyi to get Pacific on the board.
After a USC score, Erdelyi would find the back of the cage for a second time on a pass from sophomore Alex Malkis, cutting the Trojans' lead to 4-2 with 3:16 left in the quarter. Neither team would score again as the period ended with USC holding a two-goal advantage.
The opening of the second quarter saw a trio of USC shot attempts rebound into the field. The Tigers finally recovered the ball and got it to junior Balazs Szabo, who beat Trojans goalkeeper Joel Dennerley to cut USC's lead to one at 4-3 at the 6:22 mark. USC would answer with a goal of its own, but after junior Goran Tomasevicdrew an exclusion, senior Tom Koning put a shot into the right side of the net for a score to bring the Tigers back to within one with 2:57 left.
An offensive foul on the Trojans gave Pacific the ball back thirty seconds later, and Koning netted his second goal of the day on a skip shot to tie the match at 5-5. Another USC offensive foul resulted in a shot from seniorDaniel Lungu that went just underneath Dennerley's outstretched arms, putting the Tigers up 6-5. It was Pacific's third goal in less than two minutes. Just when it seemed the Tigers had gained the momentum, USC responded with a power-play goal, knotting the match at 6-6 heading into intermission.
USC turned up the defensive pressure in the second half, looking every bit the part of three-time defending national champion. The Trojans took a 7-6 advantage early in the third frame while Pacific struggled to get its offense going. A one-on-one opportunity was saved by Dennerley while multiple field blocks saw the Tigers' shots come up empty. USC would score three more times in the quarter to take a 10-6 lead into the final period.
Malkis had two key saves early in the fourth quarter but the Trojans' defense continued to keep Pacific off of the scoreboard. USC's Nicola Vavic scored his fourth goal of the game to give the Trojans an 11-6 lead, putting the game out of reach. Late in the quarter, Pacific was able to draw a penalty on Dennerley that senior Joey Doyle put away, resulting in the final margin.
Both Koning and Erdelyi scored a pair of goals to pace Pacific. Malkis recorded seven saves in a complete-game effort.
USC's Vavic led all scorers with four goals. Dennerley registered eight blocks in the cage for the Trojans.
The Tigers are back in action tomorrow at 10 a.m. versus the loser of today's afternoon match featuring Stanford and UC Santa Barbara. Fans can stay up-to-date on the tournament at the tournament's official website.