Former Opponents Alex Malkis and Balazs Erdelyi Come Together For Pacific Water Polo
Oct. 4, 2010
Stockton, Calif. - Balasz Erdelyi (Eger, Hungary) and Alex Malkis (Yoqneam, Israel) used to be familiar foes.
The two first met five years ago when they were playing for their respective clubs at a water polo tournament hosted by Erdelyi's hometown. Then in 2008, they met again in the European Championships as Erdelyi was a member of the Hungarian national team while Malkis was a member of the Israeli national team.
By position, the two were each other's counterparts. Erdelyi is an attacker. Malkis is a goalkeeper. Being opponents on different teams, they only knew of each other.
But all that changed when they found out they'd be future teammates at Pacific. "We've been friends ever since then," said Malkis.
In addition to forming a friendship, the two have joined forces to create a young and exciting duo for the Tigers (8-4), who are ranked No. 7 for the fourth consecutive week. But this hasn't been easy for the foreign-born players. They both acknowledged that water polo is played slightly different compared to the style of play in their respective home land.
According to Erdelyi, the biggest difference for him is the referees. "They call it a totally different way than at home so it is hard to adjust," he said. Erdelyi added that tactics like 6-on-5 positions are also a change.
As for Malkis, the goalie has had to increase his level of intensity. "Tempo is a little bit faster here," said Malkis, adding that the competition is the highest he's have ever played.
Despite these minor differences, Erdelyi and Malkis seem to have caught on quickly.
Through the first eight games, the two freshmen have already made an impact on the team as starters. Erdelyi and Malkis are coming off impressive performances as they helped the Tigers defeat No. 9 Pepperdine in the NorCal tournament on Sunday, September 19. Erdelyi attacked the net with three goals and added five assists while Malkis protected the goalposts with eight saves.
But their lifestyles on land hasn't been as smooth as a transition as their freestyles in the water. Erdelyi and Malkis are just two of the team's six international players on the squad. Because of this, they are handling their new environment in their own way.
For Erdelyi, his biggest adjustment is communication. Born and raised in Hungary, Erdelyi is accustomed to speaking Hungarian, which is the country's primary language. Although he learned how to speak English beginning in elementary school, Erdelyi still feels he needs to improve his vocabulary. "It is very hard to study everything in English," said Erdelyi, who is majoring in business.
As for Malkis, it isn't so much communicating that he struggles with, but rather getting himself used to campus life again. In 2007, Malkis graduated high school and spent the next three years serving as a member of Israeli's national army. His time away from school got him out of the daily routine. "Now that I'm back to school and (playing) water polo my schedule is crazy."
Both said that they haven't experienced a complete culture shock because of the help from their teammates. Malkis added that it's reassuring to know he isn't the only one in his situation. "We really understand each other and all the difficulties in moving to a new place," he said. "That helps a lot."
The two hope to develop as players and achieve more success as their water polo career at Pacific goes on.
"I do everything that I can to adjust to it and I think I do it successfully," said Erdelyi.
"I was brought here for a reason and I'm not taking that for granted," said Malkis. "I think that from practice to practice, from game to game and year to year I'm going to get better."