Senior Balazs Erdelyi was named Most Valuable Player following the NCAA championship game, just the third player in 45 years of NCAA men's water polo to be named Tournament MVP while not winning the title or sharing the award.

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Pacific Men's Water Polo Finishes Best Season in Program History

University of the Pacific will celebrate the best season in the Tigers men's water polo history Monday at 2 p.m. with a campus-wide celebration in the The Lair in the DeRosa Center.
Dec 16, 2013

The Pacific Tigers Water Polo NCAA championship bid ended in a nail-biting double overtime battle Sunday afternoon as USC managed to break the tie for a 12-11 finish. The Tigers' dream season ends with the National Runner Up trophy and a 22-5 record.

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

2012 Cutino Award Winner Balazs Erdelyi '14 scored seven goals and was named the Championship's most valuable player. Three of Erdelyi's seven goals came in the fourth quarter, including the game-tying goal with 20 seconds left to force overtime. Goalkeeper Alex Malkis '14 posted 17 saves, including a penalty shot in the fourth quarter, and earned all-tournament first team honors. Goran Tomasevic '14 was also named to the all-tournament first team, while Alex Obert '15 and Kevin Oliveira '14 were named to the second team. Head coach James Graham was named All-MPSF Coach of the Year.

Making History
And though the Trojans ultimately took home the title, Pacific shattered the myth that the championship was an entitlement of the "big four" in men's water polo (Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA). Pacific is only the third team outside the big four to make the NCAA final in the past 25 years.

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.

NCAA Tiger fans
Busloads of proud Tiger fans drowned out all the other team's supporters cheering for their Pacific Men's Water Polo team

To the shouts of the incredible standing-room-only 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," said goalie Alex Malkis following the Tigers' semifinal win over host Stanford on Saturday. 

USC admitted after Sunday's game that, while they had no assurances they would meet Pacific in this championship battle, it was something they prepared for.

"This is the team we trained to beat the most," Trojan head coach Jovan Vavic said. "In my opinion they were going to the team to beat this year." 

With program records for most wins, fewest losses and deepest NCAA run, the 2013 team will go down as one of the best in Pacific athletics history. The Tigers' only other NCAA squad placed fifth in 1993.

"We've been in the shadow of the big four schools, [but] there is a possibility if people want to believe. If they want to do something bigger, if they don't want to be just a part of a program, they can come to Pacific and make something happen, something special like these guys did," Graham said of his current team.

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.

Join the team in celebrating the historic season on Monday at 2 pm in the DeRosa University Center.

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