The Pepperdine Waves men’s water polo team battled back from four-goal deficit to defeat the San Jose State Spartans 13-10 on Oct. 9.
Pepperdine head coach Terry Schroeder said the Waves played lullingly at the beginning of the match but turned their play around.
“When it came down to crunch time, the guys played really well on defense and shut San Jose down,” he said.
The victory for the Waves, ranked 11th nationally, over the visiting Spartans, ranked 15th, was the Golden Coast Conference opener for both squads.
Attacker Dennis Blyashov, a graduate student, led the Waves with three goals and three assists. Junior attacker Christian Hosea tallied two goals, as did junior center Travis Reynolds and junior center defender Nico Tierney. Tierney also had an assist.
Freshman attacker Sandor Gal, senior utility Kaden Kaneko, senior center Austin Smit, and senior center Nicholas Fichman each scored one goal. Spencer Tybur, Pepperdine’s senior goalkeeper, had four saves to earn the win.
The Waves held a 4-3 lead in the second quarter, but the Spartans went on a 6-1 run during a 10-minute stretch to take a 9-5 lead with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
The Waves stormed back though. Tierney, Reynolds, and Smit scored three goals before the end of the third period to cut San Jose State’s lead to one point.
Tierney scored with 7:23 left in the game to tie the scoreboard. Fichman’s goal then gave Pepperdine a 10-9 lead. Goals by Gal, Blyashov, and Reynolds gave their team a 13-9 lead with under two minutes left. The Spartans scored one more goal with 1:02 left and Pepperdine escaped with a three-point win.
Blyashov said the Waves’ defense pressured the Spartans.
“We played together, splitting the guys that were shooting a lot in the first half,” he said. “Our defense was just on fire — ready to go anywhere at any time.”
Being behind four points, Schroeder said, obviously wasn’t ideal.
“No matter what the score is, we have to keep fighting and keep working every possession on defense,” he said.
The victory gives Pepperdine an 11-9 record heading into their matchup at Pacific on Saturday. The Waves host Princeton on Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. and host USC on Oct. 22 at 12 p.m.
Pepperdine has won five of its last six games. The team went 4-0 in the Sept. 30-Oct. 1 Gary Troyer Tournament in Claremont. The Waves beat Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Pomona Pitzer, Air Force, and Concordia in the tournament.
Pepperdine was defeated by second-ranked UCLA seven days before they downed San Jose State.
Schroeder said winning every GCC game possible is important, so the Waves can get a good seed in next month’s GCC Championships in Santa Barbara. The squad also has their sights set on the NCAA Championships in December.
Pepperdine won the GCC tournament in 2019 and advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
“Our main goal is to get a good seed in our conference, then win our conference,” Schroeder said. “If we win our conference, we are an automatic bid to NCAA.”