Stockton, Calif. - The Pacific men's water polo team was picked third in the preseason Mountain Pacific Sports Federation poll released Tuesday. It's the highest the Tigers have been tabbed before the season in program history. The Tigers finished sixth in last season's final standings, but lost no letter-winners from last year's squad.
USC, which turned in an undefeated season last year, was tabbed number one, while Stanford was slotted second.
"We feel like we're poised for a special season," head coach James Graham said. "Everyone returns from last season, including the Player of the Year in Balazs Erdelyi, and we also have a three-time All-American, Goran Tomasevic, back after redshirting last season. We're looking forward to the challenge of the MPSF."
Pacific enters the 2013 Men's Water Polo season with high expectations, as MPSF Player of the Year and Peter J. Cutino Award winner Balazs Erdelyi and the rest of the 2012 squad return intact, as well as three-time All-American Goran Tomasevic returning from a redshirt season.
Erdelyi became the first Tiger ever to win the Cutino Award as well as the first Pacific recipient of the MPSF Player of the Year Award. He also earned his second consecutive ACWPC First Team All-America honor after scoring 83 goals (3.46 per game), with both marks leading the MPSF. The senior attacker finished the 2012 campaign with 21 multi-goal games, including five four-goal outings, four five-goal showings and a pair of six-goal performances. He went for a career-best nine goals in the Tigers' rout of Santa Clara on Oct. 21, the most in a single game at Pacific since at least 1997.
Tomasevic is back after redshirting 2012 following three straight All-American seasons for Pacific. The First Team All-MPSF pick in 2011 tallied 46 goals in 26 games, including 15 multi-goal games, six hat tricks and a pair of four-goal performances.
Also returning for Pacific is junior utility Alex Obert, who scored 51 goals last season for Pacific, earning ACWPC All-America Second Team honors; and sophomore utility Aleksandar Petrovic, who chipped in 42 goals, which garnered him All-America honorable mention accolades. Balazs Szabo, who sat out last season after scoring 14 goals in 26 games in 2011, is also among the key returnees for Pacific.
In net, junior Alex Malkis also earned All-America honorable mention recognition, finishing the year with 273 saves
Sixth-year head coach James Graham also added a pair of impact newcomers in Kris Laczkovics and Ben Stevenson. Laczkovics spent last season at Golden West College, leading the Rustlers to a perfect 28-0 record and a California Community College Athletic Association title. He scored six goals in the championship game while adding one assist. The Hungarian native earned First Team All-Orange Empire Conference, First Team All-Southern California and First Team All-State honors.
Stevenson joins the Tigers from Reno, Nev., where he played water polo at both Reno High School and Coronado High School. He was invited to train with the USA Junior National Team last season and played in the 2012 UANA Junior Pan American Championships in Montreal, Canada, leading the team to a runner-up finish.
The Tigers finished sixth at the MPSF Tournament last year and will look to build upon a season in which Pacific turned in a 13-12 record and a 3-5 MPSF mark.
Pacific opens the 2013 campaign on Sept. 7 at home against Santa Clara at 1 p.m.