#4 Men's Water Polo Fends Of #6 LBSU, 12-11

Ikko Saito (Photo by Meghan Laurel Photography)
Ikko Saito (Photo by Meghan Laurel Photography)

Stockton, Calif. – The No. 4 Pacific men's water polo team prevailed over No. 6 Long Beach State, 12-11, in a wild contest under the lights Friday night at Chris Kjeldsen Pool.
Engin Ege Colak and Ikko Saito both posted hat tricks with Aleksandar Petrovic and Luis Araya adding two goals each as Pacific won despite having starting keeper Alen Osmanovic disqualified for the match just before halftime. Dylan Becker stepped into the cage for the second half and tied a career-high with seven saves to pick up his first collegiate victory. Becker also tallied three steals in his half of work.

Kale Ai and Devon Thumwood also added goals for the Tigers, who improve to 15-5 on the year, 3-0 in the Golden Coast Conference.

Nemanja Bakic and Austin Stewart (three goals each) led the way for the 49ers with goalie Thomas Freeman adding eleven saves. Long Beach State falls to 11-8 overall, 1-2 in conference action.

The Tigers opened up the scoring with a goal from Colak off an assist from Petrovic to give Pacific the early advantage. The 49ers got on the board shortly after on a five-meter penalty conversion by Nolan McConnell, making it 1-1. Long Beach took the lead right after by Nemanja Bakic who rifled it past Osmanovic for the 2-1 lead. Kale Ai knotted the score with a lob shot towards the far post to make it two goals apiece and Luis Araya put Pacific back up on front with his 22nd goal of the season.
The 49ers tied the score yet again when Mitchell Holden fired it from the wing to the top shelf to make it 3-3 to start the second quarter. Araya put the Tigers back up again from the top right for the 4-3 advantage. Ikko Saito added another off an assist from Araya for his 26th goal of the season to make it 5-3. Long Beach cut into the lead on Austin Stevenson's goal to the far post to make the score 5-4. With just under two minutes to go the 49ers' Bakic nailed the equalizer for his second goal of the night. Shortly after Petrovic fired one past goalie Thomas Freeman to put the Tigers back up on top, however going the other way Osmanovic was issued a misconduct and the 49ers tied things up 6-6 on an open net in the closing seconds of the quarter.
In the third quarter, after an offensive foul that re-gave the Tigers possession, Colak made it count and rifled one past the 49er 'keeper off a dish from Araya to give the Tigers the 7-6 lead. Long Beach answered back on a lob from Bakic over Becker, who was seeing his first appearance in goal since September 16th against Cal Baptist. Going the other way Saito fired a shot that bounced off the cross bar and the impending rebound found Kale Ai, who quickly dished it back to Saito who converted and gave Pacific the 8-7 advantage. With just over three minutes to go in the third quarter the 49ers were awarded another five-meter attempt and McConnell bounced it past Becker to knot the score yet again.
Looking for the lead the Tigers saw themselves with a man advantage after Jacob Fuijoka was sent off. A pass to Andrea De Nardi saw it graze past is hands but find Colak who sent it in, giving him a hat trick and putting the Orange and Black up 9-8. In the closing seconds of the quarter Long Beach found an equalizer on a power play and we headed into the fourth quarter tied 9-9.
Long Beach got their third five-meter attempt in the opening minute of the fourth quarter but the shot by McConnell was stopped by Becker, denying the 49ers the lead. Going the other way Saito fired one in to the near post put the Tigers back up 10-9, giving the senior a hat trick.
With the man advantage the 49ers were able to tie things up off a goal from Austin Stewart, but Pacific went right back up off an exclusion and a power play goal from Petrovic to make it 11-10. On the next Pacific possession Devon Thumwood sent one to the back of the net on another power play to widen the Tiger lead 12-10. With 30 seconds left Stewart would add another as he poked it past Becker to cut into the Pacific lead. The Tigers held on in the end to take the 12-11 victory and stay perfect in GCC play.

The Tigers are back in action on Friday, when Pacific faces No. 5 UC Santa Barbara in a battle for first place in the GCC, at home at 7 p.m.