Waves Water Polo At Home Saturday Vs. UC Irvine
Oct. 6, 2010
MALIBU, Calif. - The No. 13 Pepperdine men's water polo team will play host to No. 3 and MPSF rival UC Irvine this Saturday, Oct. 9 at noon at Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool. Both schools competed at last weekend's SoCal Tournament at UCLA, where the Anteaters (10-3, 0-0 MPSF) finished third and the Waves (7-8, 0-1 MPSF) placed 12th following two days of competition against the nation's best teams.
The Waves posted a 1-3 record and lost all three games by four goals. Pepperdine dropped its first-round contest, 11-10, to No.8 Long Beach State in sudden-victory overtime, scored five times in the third quarter during an 8-7 loss to No. 13 UC San Diego, and fought back from a four-goal halftime deficit vs. No. 14 Santa Clara before ultimately falling, 12-10, to the Broncos.
No. 1 USC won the tournament, 9-8, over the host and second-ranked Bruins - a game that all the Waves watched and studied alongside the coaching staff.
"There was a higher caliber of game being played on the other side of the bracket and I wanted all our players to see the work rate and level of competition that's involved in becoming a championship team," head coach Jack Kocur said. "One of the biggest issues for me this weekend was our consistency of play, and at this level there needs to be a competitive itch that says, `I will win and no one will defeat me.' I know we have the skills and talent, but we need to be more competitive within ourselves from the first to last whistle."
In between their losses, the Waves put a 12-4 whipping on Redlands that featured four first-quarter goals and a solid performance in the net by freshman goalkeeper Bence Valics (Eger, Hungary/Szilagyi Erzsebet Secondary). Valics played the first half vs. Redlands and came away with five saves, an assist, plus three steals. His aggressiveness and ability to shrink the net also kept Pepperdine in the game vs. the 49ers and Tritons during its comeback attempts; in fact, his seven thefts against Long Beach were the most by any Wave in a game this season.
Offensively, Pepperdine received a boost at SoCal from sophomore Spencer Hamby (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay HS) and redshirt junior Travis Gough (Carlsbad, Calif./Carlsbad HS) who combined for 16 of the Waves' 39 goals and elevated themselves among the team's scoring leaders with 16 and 12 points, respectively. Sophomore Danny White (Oxnard, Calif./Rio Mesa) also scored five goals Sunday to take over the team lead with 20.
The Waves' offense was at its best coming out of halftime, especially in its final two games against the Tritons and Broncos. After being blanked in the second quarter by UCSD, Pepperdine responded with five third-quarter goals and twice took the lead before eventually faltering in the final frame, and then against Santa Clara, Pepperdine scored three times in as many possessions to start the second half before being stymied by a tough Bronco defense.
Just as important, the Waves' resiliency kept their crowd in the game and that extra flood of support strengthened their belief that they could win. Players became more vocal and spirited in the pool and on the sidelines as each possession - offensively and defensively - became a must-win situation.
"Our energy and heart were all where they needed to be at the end of the Santa Clara game," Kocur said, "and that attitude has carried over into practice this week. I was pleased by what I saw in the pool today (Wednesday). They were determined to be playing better for each other."
Saturday also is the second of High School Water Polo Days at Raleigh Runnels Pool. High school teams can get into the game for free, but their head coach (or supervising adult) first has to fill out the attached form and turn it in by Thursday to Events and Promotions Coordinator Kevin Borzenski.
Pepperdine hits the road next weekend for games against UC Davis (Saturday, 6 p.m.) and Pacific (Sunday, 1 p.m.).