Oct. 14, 2013
DAVIS, Calif. - A pair of wins over Top 20 teams and a near-miss against No. 8 Pepperdine sets the stage for UC Davis men's water polo's return to its home course. The 14th-ranked Aggies host third-ranked Pacific in a Friday night showdown at Schaal Aquatics Center, then hit the road to Stanford to take on the No. 4 Cardinal on Sunday.
UC Davis posted a 12-10 Western Water Polo Association victory against UC San Diego to close out Saturday's action, led as late as 2:42 in the fourth against the Waves before falling by two, then held on in a thriller against No. 16 St. Francis to finish 11th at the UCI Invitational last weekend.
Juniors Chris Richardson and Trevor Allen led the Aggies offensively with 18 goals between them. Allen scored hat tricks against UCSD and Pepperdine, then closed out the weekend with the game-winner with a minute left against SFC. Richardson was the only other UC Davis player to score in all four games during the tournament, netting hat tricks in each Sunday contest.
Richardson also had two assists with three steals and eight drawn exclusions during the weekend. Allen continues to hone is shooting after struggling early in the season: he hit 9 of 22 while leading the Aggies with five steals. Senior Bernie Rogers matched Richardson's point total of 11 (five goals, six assists), freshman Max Vigeant draw eight kickouts and sophomore Philip Bates played all 128 minutes in front of the cage. Bates finished with 48 saves, including a career-high 18 against Stanford, while adding seven steals and an assist.
The Sunday portion largely resembled the second day of the NorCal Invitational, when the Aggies were in position to upset No. 7 UC Irvine before losing in overtime, then had to recover in time to take on No. 16 Concordia. On that September 22, UC Davis struggled to a 14-12 loss to CUI. In this case, the Aggies managed to hang on to a gritty victory against a physical SFC team loaded with experienced players and European-born talent.
"We showed a lot in coming back in that fourth game of the weekend, especially after such a tough loss in the morning," said head coach Daniel Leyson. "Anything can happen in that game and it can be tough to concentrate. Fatigue is a real factor and in some cases, people can be checked out mentally. But our guys didn't do that. They came back and fought hard. We ended on a good note even though I don't think we played particularly well, especially on 6-on-5. Our 5-on-6 was excellent and we scored a goal on a timeout play to put us up by one with hardly any time left."
"That was a tough, physical game and a big challenge for us. It felt pretty good to come away with a win. It's always better to come home on a bus or a plane coming off a win in that last game."
The Aggies play at home for just the second weekend of the year, hosting No. 3 Pacific in a Friday evening tilt. The Tigers posted a third-place finish in Irvine, edging Stanford by an 11-10 final in Sunday's nightcap. Seniors Balazs Erdelyi, Goran Tomasevic and Balazs Szabo each scored two goals in the victory. That threesome forms the nucleus of a Tiger roster that features six regular players from the opposite side of the Atlantic: Erdelyi, Szabo and Kristian Laczkovics from Hungary; Tomasevic from Croatia; Aleksandar Petrovic from Serbia; and goalkeeper Alex Malkis of Israel.
Pacific (13-2) specifically stacked its roster for 2013, aligning their fourth- and fifth-year letterwinners to combine for a large senior class in 2013, in the hopes that it results in the program's first NCAA title game. However, Leyson is less concerned about the makeup of the Tiger personnel and more interested in how his team executes on such a stage:
"We want to do our best to continue improving our performance, that's all we can really do," Leyson said. "To have a chance to do that against top-level competition is a great challenge for us. Pacific is a really, strong powerful team with a lot of weapons. They're coming to our pool and we want to give them a good game and give the people in attendance an indication of where we're going."
Stanford (10-4) fell just short in the third-place game against the Tigers despite five goals from sophomore driver Bret Bonanni. The Cardinal previously lost, 10-5, to UCLA in the UCI Invite semifinal to move into the third-place game. Bonanni and senior Forrest Watkins each had four-goal games in Saturday's pool play to send Stanford to the final four.
Friday's game against Pacific is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tickets are available via the UC Davis Ticket Office at tickets.ucdavis.edu.
SKIP SHOTS: The Aggies have faced nationally ranked teams in 13 of their 15 games this year... The exceptions were Cal Baptist, who have since entered the Top 20; and Fresno Pacific... This weekend marks the first time since Nov. 1-4, 2009 that UC Davis has faced Top 4 teams in back-to-back games... With 9 goals over the weekend, Chris Richardson lifts his career total to 138... He moved ahead of Pat Foster (132, 1993-96) for seventh, now needs 23 to catch former teammate Aaron Salit for sixth... He also played a total of 100.5 minutes for an average of more than 25 per... The school recordholder in that category: Matt Richardson, Chris' brother, who averaged 26.4 per game in 2010.