Men's Water Polo Outlasts UC Davis To Reach NCAA Semis

Men's Water Polo Outlasts UC Davis To Reach NCAA Semis

LOS ANGELES - The Pacific men's water polo team kept UC Davis at arms length most of the game and hung on for a 13-12 win in the NCAA Quarterfinals Thursday at USC's Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

Luke Pavillard led the Tigers with four goals and four steals, while Engin Ege Colak added three goals. Andres Schmidt scored two goals and added four steals on defense, while Kale Ai added two goals and three steals. Devon Thumwood and Ben Stevenson also scored for Pacific.

The Tigers led for over 21 minutes, but UC Davis rallied from down 13-8 to pull within 13-12 with 1:04 to go, forcing Pacific to make one defensive stand to advance.

No. 5 Pacific advances to the NCAA Semifinals and will take on No. 1 UCLA on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Tigers improve to 21-5 on the season, while No. 8 UC Davis finishes 2017 at 22-7. Pacific has won 11 in a row against the Aggies, and are now 5-2 in NCAA Tournament play.

After trading steals, Pacific got on the board first as Colak ripped home a shot from three meters away. Off a steal, Devon Thumwood scored in transition with a cross-cage shot for a 2-0 lead. But the Tigers picked up a exclusion and Morgan Olson-Fabbro lobbed it over the goalie on the restart to cut the Tigers lead in half. Ai recorded a steal and fed Pavillard in front, who hit the side panel for a 3-1 lead.

In the second, Spencer Galli tallied for the Aggies, but Ai finished off a power-play with a goal under the arm of R.J. Quigley for a 4-2 lead. Holden Tamblyn immediately responded with a goal for UC Davis. After a Pacific exclusion, Nick Coufal scored from three meters away to tie the game 2:20 before halftime. The Aggies took a 5-4 lead when a five-meter penalty shot was awarded and Jack Stafford. Pacific knotted the game at 5-5 when Andres Schmidt finished off a pass down low at the post from Ben Stevenson.

Pavilliard tossed a long, cross-pool pass to Ai, who hit a driving Stevenson in the middle for a tap-in goal and a 6-5 Pacific lead early in the third. But off a common foul, Olson-Fabbro finished off another lob goal. Colak shoved in a power-play goal on the short-side for a 7-6 lead, and Ai powered a shot past Quigley on a breakaway for an 8-6 advantage.

But the Aggies were awarded a 6-on-4 power play, and Riley Venne collapsed down and finished off the hands of a Tiger defender to pull within one. After a pair of stops by Osmanovic, Pavillard's spinning shot was tucked inside the post for a 9-7 lead. Ai fed Schmidt driving to the back post for Schmidt's second goal for a three-goal advantage.

In the fourth, Stafford snuck one past Osmanovic to bring the Aggies within 10-8, but Pavilliard drilled a shot from the wing off Quigley and in to restore the three-goal lead. Schmidt fed Pavillard of an insurance goal and the Tigers drew a power player. Colak capped the advantage for a 13-8 lead with 3:34 remaining off an assist from Thumwood.

Ido Goldschmidt scored on a penalty shot and then in transition to tighten up the score. Pacific posted a stop, but Yurii Hanley wrestled the rebound away from Osmanovic and shoved it into the goal to pull UC Davis within 13-11 with 1:56 remaining.

The Aggies were awarded a third five-meter penalty shot with 1:05 to go, with Goldschmidt putting a shot just off the outstretched fingertips of Osmanovic to close within one.

Pacific spread the pool and after using all 30 seconds on the clock, fired a shot on net that was saved by Quigley. The Tigers locked down defensively and left the Aggies without a good look on their final shot, which trickled wide with eight seconds left as the Tigers survived and advanced.

Pacific recorded 15 steals on defense, but the Tigers were whistled for nine offensive fouls and 11 exclusions, including the three five-meter penalty shots for UC Davis.

The Tigers will face the top-ranked Bruins at 3 p.m. on Saturday for a place in the national championship game. UCLA is 19-4 on the season. In the regular season matchup at UCLA, the Bruins escaped with a 12-11 win over the Tigers back on October 28.