Men's Water Polo Done In By Sudden Victory Goal
Los Angeles, Calif. – UC Irvine's Trent Baxter scored the deciding goal in sudden victory as the Pacific men's water polo team fell 10-9 to the Anteaters Sunday, November 27, in the fifth-place match at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament.
The loss sees the Tigers finish sixth at the tournament, the program's best finish since the 2006 season.
UC Irvine got on the board first with a goal from Baxter at the 6:12 mark of the first quarter. The Tigers matched the Anteaters with a goal by freshman Alex Obert on a rebound put-back with 1:31 left in the frame. UCI was able to draw a penalty on sophomore goalkeeper Alex Malkis but the resulting attempt hit the bar and was recovered by Pacific. With just five seconds left in the quarter, Obert tallied for a second time to give the Tigers a 2-1 advantage.
The second quarter saw UC Irvine tie the match at 2-2 on a counter-attack goal at the 7:12 mark. The Tigers answered on their next possession when junior Goran Tomasevic put away a pass from sophomore Balazs Erdelyi to put Pacific back up by one. After the Anteaters scored consecutive goals to take a one-goal lead, senior Tom Koning beat UCI's keeper to the left on a power play, knotting the match at 4-4 with 5:48 left. A 6-on-5 goal from UC Irvine late in the quarter would put the Anteaters up 5-4 heading into intermission.
Neither team was able to find the back of the cage in the third period. Both squads had power play opportunities but their respective keepers came up with saves, preserving UC Irvine's 5-4 lead with eight minutes left to play.
The Anteaters ended their cold spell first with a goal thirty seconds into the final frame, going up 6-4 in the process. Pacific broke through on a 6-on-5 goal from Tomasevic to pull back to within one before tying the game at 6-6 on a 5-meter penalty shot from senior Daniel Lungu with 3:52 left. The Tigers managed to reclaim their lead on a score by Erdelyi at the 2:24 mark, but UCI answered with just 28 seconds left to force the game into overtime.
The first overtime saw Pacific take back the lead on a rebound put-back from Tomasevic at the 1:51 mark. Baxter would score 20 seconds later for the Anteaters, tying the game at 8-8. The Tigers had a scoring chance at the end of the frame but Erdelyi's shot deflected off of the bar and was recovered by UCI.
Malkis was threatened early in the second overtime period as an Anteater shot sailed over the cage. On Pacific's resulting possession, Lungu connected on a shot from outside that beat UCI's keeper, giving the Tigers a 9-8 lead with 1:09 left to play. The Anteaters managed to draw an ejection before calling timeout with 38 seconds remaining. The resulting play saw Sam Figueroa beat Malkis to the right side for the game-tying goal with 24 seconds left, giving the Tigers one last possession. Pacific was unable to get a good look after its pass was deflected, sending the game into sudden victory.
The Tigers won the crucial opening sprint but were whistled for an offensive foul before they could get a shot off. The resulting counter attack saw Baxter get open down the middle of the pool where a teammate found him for the game-ending goal.
It was Pacific's third game decided in a sudden-victory period on the season. It was also the team's eighth overtime match and 12th one-goal match of the year.
Tomasevic paced the Tigers with three goals while Lungu and Obert added a pair of scores. Malkis recorded 15 saves in the cage for the Tigers.
Baxter led all scorers with four goals. Goalkeper Jimmy Friedrich tallied six saves.