Freshman attacker Sandor Gal hurls the ball toward the San Jose State net in Pepperdine’s 13-10 come-from-behind victory in Malibu on Oct. 9. The Waves out-shot the Spartans 35 to 24. Photos by Lucian Himes
No. 11 Water Polo completed a 13-10 comeback win against San Jose State at Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool on Oct. 9. The win moved the Waves to 11-9 overall, and gave them a 1-0 start to Golden Coast Conference play.
Graduate student attacker Dennis Blyashov led the Waves with three goals and three assists, while junior attacker Christian Hosea, junior center Travis Reynolds and junior center defender Nico Tierney all contributed two goals. Senior goalie Spencer Tybur, a halftime substitute, made four saves to secure the win.
“This was a really important game just to get back in our flow,” Hosea said. “Our team really needs wins like this going into our first games of conference, so this one was really important for sure.”
Pepperdine’s last game was at home against UCLA on Oct. 2 — a contentious exchange that ended in a 10-8 victory for the visiting Bruins. But as the Waves prepared to take on the Spartans, Blyashov said the UCLA game was the furthest thing from their minds.
“I don’t even remember the loss,” Blyashov said. “This was a conference game, so this was the only game we were focused on. ‘First game of the season’ is what we’ve been saying every game.”
San Jose State started the game with energy — the Spartans grabbed the opening possession in the first three quarters. Sophomore utility player Laszlo Szieben opened the scoring on the Spartans second possession with a rocket of a shot through the Waves defense.
Hosea responded with a goal of his own at 6:02. After Spartans sophomore utility player Bende Pardi scored his first goal of the game at 5:38, Hosea tied the score at 2-2 with his second strike of the quarter. The Waves and Spartans closed a hectic first period tied 3-3.
The Spartans took control in the second quarter through Pardi and freshman attacker Javi Ibanez. The pair combined for four goals, doubling the Waves attacking output in the quarter.
“They have some great shooters,” Head Coach Terry Schroeder said. “We let those big shooters hurt us a bit early on. We made some adjustments, and we didn’t let those guys hurt us so much later on.”
Defensively, the Waves clamped down after half time — only two more Spartan shots found the back of the net in the entire second half. Schroeder said the team changed their strategy in the second period, and prioritized team defense over individual duels.
The Waves gave themselves a hefty hill to climb in the third quarter. At 5:25, Pepperdine was down 9-5.
“Being down 9-5, it didn’t look so good there,” Schroeder said. “No matter what the score is, we’ve got to keep fighting.”
At 4:02 in the third quarter, Tierney put the score at 9-6 with a well-placed shot that sailed through flailing Spartan arms. Thus began an eight-goal, uninterrupted Pepperdine onslaught that lasted until 1:02 in the fourth quarter, when the Spartans tallied a late consolation goal.
Tierney, Reynolds, senior center Austin Smit, Tierney again, redshirt senior center Nicholas Fichman, freshman attacker Sandor Gal, Blyashov, Reynolds at the double — the announcer had little time to catch his breath between goal announcements, as Waves names echoed repeatedly through the foggy air. When the dust settled and the water calmed, the Waves held a 13-10 lead with less than a minute to play.
As the game slipped away from the Spartans, the contest turned chippier. Referees handed out three yellow cards in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter to Spartan sophomore utility player Bence Szabo, Blyashov and San Jose State Head Coach Bruce Waston. Hosea said the Waves didn’t let this rattle them.
“Our coach has just been telling us to stay composed since day one,” Hosea said. “All the calls might not go your way, but you just gotta keep fighting for your brothers.”
Pepperdine continues GCC play on the road Saturday, Oct. 15, when they travel to Stockton, Calif., to take on University of the Pacific.
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic
Email Alec Matulka: firstname.lastname@example.org