No. 2 Pacific Men's Water Polo Faces No. 3 Stanford In NCAA Semis Saturday
Game Notes | NCAA Tournament Central
No. 2 University of the Pacific will face No. 3 Stanford University in the NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship Semifinals at 2:45 p.m. Saturday at Stanford's Avery Aquatics Center.
The Tigers (22-4) are making their second appearance in the NCAA Tournament, earning an at-large bid. Pacific won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season title and the MPSF Tournament's number one seed. The Tigers were knocked off the in MPSF semifinals, but rallied to defeat then No. 2 UCLA in the third place game to lock up their place in the NCAA Tournament.
Stanford (22-5), finished second at the MPSF Tournament, sending UCLA to the third place game with a semifinal win before falling to USC, the No. 1 seed of the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal won its play-in game on Thursday, 20-3, over SCIAC champion Whittier.
Pacific is 2-1 this season against the Cardinal, falling in the first meeting, 9-8, in overtime at the NorCal Tournament before winning the following two match-ups. The Tigers posted a 14-12 win over Stanford at Chris Kjeldsen Pool in Stockton in the MPSF regular season tilt, and then posted an 11-10 win over the Cardinal at the SoCal Tournament third-place game. The two squads somehow managed to avoid a fourth meeting at the MPSF Tournament last weekend in Stockton.
Senior goalkeeper Alex Malkis had some of his best games of the season against Stanford, with a career-high 19 saves in the overtime game at NorCal, 14 in the home win on Sept. 21, and 13 in the Tigers win over the Cardinal at SoCal. Malkis also came up huge in the MPSF Third Place Game, saving the Tigers season along with 13 UCLA shots. The All-American also stopped a pair of five-meter penalty shots, as well as a flurry in the final seconds to secure the win which propelled the Tigers into the field and handed then No. 2 UCLA a heart-breaking end to their outstanding season. Malkis ranks second in MPSF this season with 12.85 saves per game.
Offensively, the Tigers are led by 2012 Peter J. Cutino Award (national player of the year) winner Balazs Erdelyi. This season, Erdelyi has scored a school-record tying 85 goals, second in MPSF this season. He is also second in goals per game at 3.27. He sits third all-time on Pacific's scoring list with 278 career goals. In three meetings against Stanford this season, Erdelyi has scored eight times. His eight goals in the MPSF Tournament earned him a spot on the MPSF All-Tournament team.
Redshirt senior Goran Tomasevic, a three-time All-American and 2011 Cutino finalist, is eighth in MPSF in scoring with 2.48 goals per game, hitting the back of the cage 62 times this year. Like Erdelyi and Malkis, Tomasevic was a First Team All-MPSF selection. He has scored six goals in three games against the Cardinal this year, and 11 in three games of the MPSF Tournament, earning All-Tournament Team accolades.
Junior Alex Obert has chipped in 40 goals on the year, as his 1.54 goals per game average ranks 19th in MPSF. The All-MPSF Honorable Mention selection also scored six goals in the three previous games against Stanford this season.
Senior Kevin Oliveira has added 35 goals this season, and his 1.35 goals per game ranks 25th in MPSF. Olivera scored five goals in the MPSF Tournament, and scored five times against the Cardinal this season, including a hat-trick in the Tigers' win at Kjeldsen Pool.
Sophomore Krizstian Laczkovics ranks fifth on Pacific in scoring, with 1.15 goals per game, and 30 goals on the season.
The Cardinal are led by Bret Bonanni, who led MPSF with 3.42 goals per game through the MPSF Tournament and has 91 goals this season after scoring twice against Whittier Thursday. Bonanni scored 11 times in the MPSF Tournament, and earned all-tournament team honors, as did Alex Bowen, who's 2.58 goals per game average had him fifth in MPSF entering the week. Bowen sits at 67 goals on the year.
Stanford goalkeeper Drew Holland was 10th in saves, at 8.65 per game entering the week and tallied five in Thursday's win over Whittier (departing early with a comfortable lead). He ranked fourth in MPSF in goals against average at 7.53.
The winner of Pacific and Stanford will face the winner of No. 1 USC and No. 11 St. Francis Brooklyn for the national championship. St. Francis Brooklyn advanced to the semifinals with a 6-5 win Thursday over UC San Diego. The national championship game will start at 3 p.m. on Sunday. The two teams who fall in the semifinals will meet in the third place game at 1 p.m. Sunday. All four games will be streamed online at NCAA.com.