December 9, 2013

University Celebrates Men's Water Polo Season

Stockton, Calif. - University of the Pacific celebrated the best season in the Tigers men's water polo history Monday with a campus-wide celebration in the The Lair in the DeRosa Center.

"Just because someone is crowned the champion, doesn't mean that the other team shouldn't feel proud," said head coach James Graham. "They made for one of the best NCAA championship games I've ever seen."

Pacific (23-5) made a historic run to the NCAA National Championship game, where senior Balazs Erdelyi scored seven goals, a championship game modern-era record, while senior goalkeeper Alex Malkis made 17 saves in the match-up with five-time defending champion USC.

While the Tigers settled for the National Runner Up trophy and the Trojans ultimately took home the title in overtime, Pacific shattered the myth that the championship was an entitlement of the four historical powers in men's water polo.

Pacific spent virtually the entire season ranked in the top three, and earned the No. 1 ranking for the first time in program history, holding the top spot for a quarter of the season. The talk of the water polo community, Pacific's season was captivating and the Tigers drew inspiration from their now larger and vocal fan base.

Behind the incredible fan turnout at home in the regular season, Pacific won its first MPSF regular season title. And the support only increased this past weekend, as busloads of Tiger faithful made their presence felt at the NCAA Tournament.

"The crowd was huge for us, I don't even know if there were (other) fans, I just heard our fans," Malkis said following the Tigers' semifinal win over host Stanford.

With program records for most wins, fewest losses and deepest NCAA run -- the Tigers' 1993 NCAA squad placed fifth -- the team will go down as one of the best in Pacific athletics history.

The squad joins Pacific women's volleyball as the only Tigers' program to earn a number one ranking, advance to the Final Four of their sport, and play in the NCAA Championship Game, with this year's squad finishing just short of joining the 1985 and 1986 volleyball teams as Pacific's national champions.