No. 1 Pacific Men's Water Polo Tops No. 2 UCLA, 10-9, On MPSF's Final Day
UPDATE: Pacific's men's water polo team beat Standford 11-10 in the semifinal match. They will play the USC Trojans for the NCAA National Championship Sunday, December 8 at 3:00 p.m. For more information on the semifinal match, please visit the Pacific Athletics website.
The No. 1 University of the Pacific men's water polo team never trailed as the Tigers downed No. 2 UCLA 10-9, Sunday at Chris Kjeldsen Pool to take third place in the MPSF tournament.
Senior goalkeeper Alex Malkis made 13 saves, including a pair of five-meter penalty shot blocks. Goran Tomasevic and Kevin Oliveira each scored three times, while Balazs Erdelyi added a pair and Krisztian Laczkovics and Alex Obert each found the back of the net.
Tomasevic opened the scoring a minute and a half into the game on a 6-on-5, finishing from inside the two-meter. UCLA's Paul Reynolds answered to knot the game at 1-1. The two teams traded defensive stops with Malkis posting six saves and the Bruins cageminder Garrett Danner stopping two shots.
With time dwindling in the first, Balasz Erdelyi scored on a five-meter penalty shot to the bottom left for a 2-1 lead.
Malkis denied a five-meter penalty shot on the final play of the of the quarter, diving to his left, and then fending off a rebound shot.
In the second, UCLA wasted little time tying the match at 2-2 on a backhand goal by Aimone Barabino at 7:19.
But following an exclusion, the Tigers took the lead as Kevin Oliveira scored on the cross shot past Danner for a 3-2 Pacific edge.
UCLA again was awarded a five-meter penalty, but again Malkis was up to the task, posting the save to maintain the 3-2 Pacific lead.
But Reynolds tallied again, this time on the man-advantage to equalize, as UCLA tied it up 3-3.
With 3:20 to go in the second, Tomasevic gave Pacific the lead, as he scored on the 6-on-5 for a 4-3 lead, slamming it home from the right post. With 1:29 to go, Laczkovics converted a power play for a two-goal lead at halftime.
Reynolds finally converted on a penalty shot as he finished with 4:59 left in the third to draw within 5-4. Jack Fellner added a goal from distance 40 seconds later as the Bruins' two-goal surge tied it up at 5-all.
But just 24 seconds later, the 2013 Cutino Award winner Balasz Erdelyi answered to curb some of the Bruins momentum, rifling a shot off the bar, off Danner and in.
UCLA would tie the match again at 6-6 as Gordon Marshall finished off a lob to the two-meter at the 3:14 mark.
But Tomasevic ripped a shot home across the goal mouth into the upper right corner on the power-play for a 7-6 Pacific lead with 2:49 left in the quarter and after a defensive stop, Obert's tally on a skip-shot gave Pacific a two-goal advantage at 8-6.
Oliveria closed the quarter with a goal from a sharp angle for a three-goal cushion.
In the fourth, UCLA struck first, as Anthony Daboub tallied just off the hand of Malkis to pull within 9-7. Ryder Roberts added a power-play goal to cut the Tigers' lead to one with 4:55 remaining.
But Oliveria netted the eventual game winner, striking with 4:12 left for a 10-8 lead.
UCLA staved off a 6-on-5 and the Bruins tallied with 1:36 remaining to pull within one.
Pacific milked the clock and then posted a stop on UCLA's ensuing possession, but couldn't quite run the clock down to triple zero without giving UCLA the ball one last time.
Malkis recorded his final save of the game to ice the victory and put Pacific on the cusp of an NCAA Tournament berth.
Pacific improves to 22-4 overall, while UCLA falls to 28-4. A crowd of 1,026 attended the game
Both teams will await the NCAA Selections, to be announced later Sunday evening.
USC won the MPSF title and earned the automatic bid, while two additional MPSF teams will likely advance to at least an NCAA Play In Game. The NCAA field remains at four teams, but two play-in games have been added, which will feature seeds three through six. The Play In games are on Thursday, at Stanford, with the Semifinals next Saturday.