No. 5 Pacific Opens MPSF Play With Home Tilt Against Pepperdine
The No. 5 Pacific men's water polo team opens Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play this Sunday, Oct. 21, when No. 8 Pepperdine visits Kjeldsen Pool. The two squads are set to square off at 12 p.m.
The Tigers moved up one spot in the Collegiate Water Polo Association poll this week, the first time Pacific has been in the top five since November of last season. Pacific found itself No. 4 in November of 2010, the program's highest ranking under fifth-year head coach James Graham.
Pacific trail the all-time series against the Waves, 33-18, but have won four of the last seven matches. The two teams have already played once this season as Pepperdine topped Pacific, 11-7, in the seventh-place match at the NorCal Tournament back in September. Sophomore Alex Obert led the Tigers with three goals while junior goalkeeper Alex Malkis blocked eight shots.
The Tigers concluded the non-conference portion of their schedule last Friday, Oct. 12, when Santa Clara visited Kjeldsen Pool for a tilt under the lights. Pacific dominated throughout the match, winning 20-10 and growing its lead to as many as 14 at the end of the third quarter. Junior Balazs Erdelyi had a monster day for Pacific, going for a career-high nine goals in just three periods of play, topping his previous career best of six scores. Freshman Aleksandar Petrovic added his second career hat trick. Malkis record 12 saves in three-and-a-half quarters of work.
Erdelyi has had a spectacular season thus far for the Tigers as he leads the MPSF with 54 goals and 3.86 goals per game. He is one of only two players in the league to have scored 50 or more goals and to be averaging at least three scores per game. He has tallied 12 multi-goal games this season, including two games of four goals, three games of five goals and two games of six goals.
"Balazs is having a fantastic season," Graham said. "He has stepped up his level of play this season and is performing like we knew he could. He should definitely be in the conversation for the Cutino Award come season's end."
The Tigers were dealt a tough blow last week as sophomore Alex Obert was ruled out for the season with a broken finger. Obert was on his way to an All-American season through 13 games and had established himself as one of the top centers in the MPSF. He was the team's second-leading scorer with 31 goals and set a career high with five scores in Pacific's overtime upset win over then-No. 4 California at last month's SoCal Tournament.
"It's obviously tough to lose a player like Obert," Graham said. "He was on his way to All-America honors and had become a force at center. That being said, we are looking ahead to the upcoming conference season and are excited that our new players have stepped up and embraced the challenge ahead of us."
Leading the charge for the newcomers is freshman Aleksandar Petrovic. The team's third-leading scorer with 16 goals, he has recorded two hat tricks on the year as a center defender. Junior Kevin Oliveira has put up 11 scores from the right side while freshman Casey Fleming and junior Andres Oneto have tallied nine goals apiece.
Defensively, Malkis has had a huge impact in the cage for Pacific, blocking 150 shots through 11.625 games. His 12.90 saves-per-game average leads the MPSF and his 138 blocks ranks third despite playing the sixth-most games. He set a new career high with 22 blocks against Stanford at the SoCal Tournament in September. Through 63 career games, Malkis has tallied a remarkable 602 saves, ranking second all-time in school history. He needs 153 saves to claim the top spot.