Tigers Finish Sixth At SoCal Tournament
The Pacific men's water polo team finished sixth at this season's SoCal Tournament at UC Santa Barbara Sunday, Sept. 30, the program's best showing at the tournament since 2006. The Tigers opened the tournament's second day with an upset win over No. 4 California, 10-9, before falling to No. 3 Stanford, 9-5, in the tournament's fifth-place match.
Pacific's win over California marked the first time since the 1999 season that the Tigers were victorious against the Golden Bears.
Pacific now sits at 7-5 on the year. The Tigers' sixth-place finish was the program's best since the 2006 season, when Pacific also fell to Stanford in the tournament's fifth-place game. The Tigers took eighth at this year's NorCal Tournament, the northern equivalent to the SoCal Tournament.
"Overall, I thought it was a great tournament for us," head coach James Graham said. "We were able to play three of the top four teams in the nation and pick up a couple of wins against MPSF teams. I thought our players really put together some great performances this weekend. I was pleased with our strong showing."
Junior goalkeeper Alex Malkis played every quarter for Pacific, blocking 70 shots, including a career-high 22 versus Stanford. He registered double-digit saves in each of the Tigers' four games, averaging 17.5 saves per game over the weekend.
Sophomore Alex Obert led the Tigers with 10 goals on the weekend, going for a career-high five goals against California. Junior Balazs Erdelyi added nine scores, while freshmen Aleksandar Petrovic and Casey Fleming contributed three goals apiece.
"Alex Malkis was simply awesome this weekend," Graham said. "He was the backbone of our defense, and had the kinds of games we know he is capable of. Offensively, Balazs and Alex Obert put the team on their back. I thought we really played unselfishly this weekend, and that everyone did their job and played for each other. Overall, it was a great team performance."
Pacific's first match of the day was tight throughout. California opened the scoring, but Obert tied it at 1-1 behind an advantage goal before Erdelyi gave the Tigers a one-goal lead after converting a penalty shot. The Golden Bears would get a second goal late to tie the match at 2-2 after the first period.
The two squads traded goals to open the second quarter as Erdelyi netted his second score of the match. Malkis came up big for Pacific during the frame, blocking a penalty shot before saving an advantage opportunity, keeping things tied at 3-3. Junior Andres Oneto scored his first goal of the match to put the Tigers up by one, but Cal came right back with another score to knot the match at 4-4. A late goal from Obert gave Pacific a 5-4 lead heading into halftime.
California kicked up its defensive pressure in the third period, keeping the Tigers off of the board for a majority of the eight minutes. The Golden Bears tied the match before taking their first lead since early in the game on an advantage goal. Sophomore Sean Grady managed to find the back of the cage late in the quarter, sending the match into the fourth period tied 6-6.
Neither team would generate much offense in the final frame. With 1:47 left to play and things still knotted at 7-7, the Tigers called timeout. Pacific was able to draw a penalty that Obert converted for his third goal of the match, giving the Tigers a one-goal lead late in the game. California refused to go away, however, as the Golden Bears netted a late goal to force overtime.
The Golden Bears wasted little time getting on the board in the first overtime period, taking a quick 8-7 lead. Pacific's response came from junior Kevin Oliveira, who converted a power-play chance to tie the match at 8-8 after three minutes.
Obert put the Tigers back on top early in the second overtime period, but California quickly answered to tie it at 9-9. After the Golden Bears came up empty, Pacific called timeout with 30 seconds left. The Tigers needed just nine seconds to score, however, as Obert put away what would prove to be the game-winner with just 21 seconds on the clock. Pacific's defense locked down on Cal's ensuing possession, holding the Golden Bears scoreless as the Tigers secured the upset.
Obert led all scorers with five goals. Erdelyi added a pair of scores. Malkis blocked a then-season-high 18 shots in a complete-game effort.
Perhaps showing signs of fatigue, the Tigers fell behind early in the tournament's fifth-place game Sunday afternoon. Stanford held Pacific scoreless for a majority of the first half, notching two goals in the first quarter before taking a 4-0 lead midway through the second frame. The Tigers finally got on the board after Obert finished a power-play chance, cutting the Cardinal's lead to four, 5-1, at the half.
Erdelyi pulled Pacific to within three, 5-2, after converting a penalty that was drawn by Obert. The Tigers would get another goal, this time from freshman Casey Fleming, but Stanford tacked on two scores of its own to take a 7-3 lead into the final frame.
The Cardinal added two more goals to go up by six early in the fourth quarter before Obert put away his second goal of the match to cut Stanford's lead to five, 9-4. Freshman Daniel Kemether scored his first goal of the game late in the period, resulting in the final margin.
Pacific was led by Obert's two goals. Malkis registered a career-high 22 saves in four quarters of work.
The Tigers will play their first home game of the season next weekend, hosting UC Davis on Friday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. in the program's first-ever night game.
No. 8 Pacific 10, No. 4 California 9 (OT)
Pacific 2 - 3 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 2 -- 10
California 2 - 2 - 2 - 1 - 1 - 1 -- 9
Pacific - Obert 5, Erdelyi 2, Grady, Oliveira, Oneto
California - Smith 3, Balarin 2, Cupido, Gettlefinger, Russell, Schell
Pacific - Malkis 18
California - Sibley 12
No. 3 Stanford 9, No. 8 Pacific 5
Pacific 0 - 1 - 2 - 2 -- 5
Stanford 2 - 3 - 2 - 2 -- 9
Pacific - Obert 2, Erdelyi, Fleming, Kemether
Stanford - Bowen 4, Bonanni 2, Cleary, LaForge, Watkins
Pacific - Malkis 22
Stanford - Ploch 10