Pepperdine Wins GCC Tournament Championship
The Waves beat the No. 4 and 5 teams in the country on their way to the title.
STOCKTON, Calif. - The No. 9 Pepperdine men's water polo team won the inaugural Golden Coast Conference Tournament title on Sunday, beating second-seeded and tournament host Pacific 6-5 in a thrilling title game.
Zack Rhodes made 18 saves in goal and grabbed Tournament MVP honors after putting up 47 total saves in the Waves' three-game run to the title. Marko Asic led the Waves with three goals in the championship game, and Cristian Bridley and Mark Urban were named to the All-Tournament Team.
"It was amazing to see the guys come together the way they did this weekend," said head coach Terry Schroeder. "We came in with a focus of just winning every series and the guys took that to heart and really played for each other. Zack was amazing in the net and that excited the guys in front of him. We had so many guys step up and contribute to this championship."
In a game that never saw more than a two-goal lead, the Waves led wire-to-wire in Pacific's home pool. Pepperdine jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter and held off every charge the Tigers could muster on the night. The Waves overcame an 11-3 exclusion advantage for Pacific, holding the tigers scoreless on seven of their 10 powerplay opportunities.
Pepperdine held a 4-3 advantage at the half and matched the Tigers goal for goal in the final two quarters.
With the Waves still holding a one-goal lead, Urban put Pepperdine up 6-4 with his second goal of the game at the 4:34 mark. Pacific came back with a 6-on-5 goal with just over three minutes to play, but that was the last score of the night as the Waves' defense clamped down.
The Tigers had one last chance when Asic was excluded with 34 seconds to play. After calling their final timeout, Pacific got off a shot with 13 seconds left that hit the cage and nearly trickled in, but it was knocked away and the Waves ran out the clock.
"There were a lot of guys that came up big for us," said Schroeder. "Marko was our offensive threat all year and teams came in really planning to stop him. Because of that, other guys had to step up and they did. Mark played one of the best weekends of his career. He was fantastic. He and Brock Liebhardt were excellent leaders for us all year and they really pulled the team together at the right time."
"Cristian is another guy that had probably the best tournament of his career this weekend," said Schroeder. "It's great to see a guy like him pull it together in his final games. He had been beaten and busted up along the way and to see him play the way he did is amazing. A big part of what we needed this season was a strong center presence and he was that these last few games. He made defenses really work and forced them to adjust to us."
Bridley matched his career-high with four goals against UC Santa Barbara last night and then scored once and added an assist against Pacific tonight. He was tied for fifth at the tournament with six total goals. Urban also posted six goals and led the entire tournament field with seven assists. Asic was tied for second at the GCC Championships with seven goals. Rhodes' 47 saves was 22 more than any other player posted at the tournament.
The Waves finish the season 15-12 after three straight wins in the conference tournament. Pepperdine came in as the fourth-seed after going 2-3 in conference play this year. They beat regular-season champs UC Santa Barbara last night and then second-place Pacific tonight. The Gauchos and Tigers are the fourth and fifth-ranked teams in the country, respectively.
This is the first year of the newly formed men's division of the GCC. The conference does not yet have an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
No. 9 Pepperdine def. No. 5 Pacific, 6-5
PEP - 2 - 2 - 1 - 1 - 6
UOP - 0 - 3 - 1 - 1 - 5
PEP: Asic 3, Urban 2, Bridley
UOP: Ai 2, Colak, Araya, Saito
PEP: Rhodes 18
UOP: Osmanovic 12