PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Pacific will play for the national championship. The Tigers posted an 11-10 win against No. 3 Stanford in the national semifinal at the 2013 NCAA championships on Saturday at Avery Aquatic Center.
Despite leading for most of the first three quarters, the Tigers trailed 10-9 with three minutes to play until senior Balasz Erdelyi scored off a long outlet pass to tie the game, and Alex Obert provided the game-winner with 46 seconds left.
Erdelyi, Obert and Kevin Oliveira each finished with three goals, while Krisztian Laczkovics, Aleksandar Petrovic, Goran Tomasevic, Casey Fleming and Balazs Szabo each scored.Senior goalkeeper Alex Malkis posted 12 saves in goal for the Tigers, who improve to 23-4 overall and move on to the national championship game against five-time defending champion USC at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
After a pair of stops, Erdelyi's transition shot was turned away by Drew Holland. Tomasevic drew an exclusion, but the Tigers couldn't convert. Malkis posted a pair of saves and the Tigers forced a turnover on the Stanford man-advantage.
Alex Bowen got the Cardinal on the board at 1:49 in the first quarter, as he redirected a pass into the net with a quick one-timer.
But just 16 seconds later, Aleksandar Petrovic tied the game with a shot from six meters out on a man advantage. Pacific drew another exclusion, an Erdelyi found Laczkovics on the wing for a 2-1 lead with 35 seconds left in the quarter. Balazs Szabo beat the clock for a 3-1 lead.
Bowen answered in the opening minute of the second quarter, scoring to close the game to 3-2 at the 7:06 mark. Tomasevic responded just 15 seconds later with a shot from two-meters to restore the two-goal lead.
B.J. Churnside snuck one past Malkis on the near side on Stanford's next possession. Pacific drew an exclusion and Casey Fleming found space in the two-meter and hammered home the Tigers fifth goal. Bret Bonanni cut the Tigers lead to 5-4 with a power-play goal at the 4:23 mark.
Obert capped off a four-pass sequence on the man-advantage, as Pacific scored on five of the first six power-plays, giving the Tigers a 6-4 lead with 2:53 to go in the half. And neither team converted the rest of the half.
Malkis made a diving stop to stuff a point-blank shot to open the third quarter. Stanford's Connor Cleary's lob shot made it a one-goal game with 5:59 left in the third.
Stanford picked up a power-play in transition and Bowen posted his third goal of the game to tie it at 6-6 with 4:20 to go in the quarter.
But Kevin Oliveira answered just 14 seconds later and after a defensive stop, Tomasevic drew an exclusion to give Pacific the man-advantage. But a shot sailed high and Paul Rudolph tallied on a skip shot to tie the game at 7-7.
Churnside gave Stanford its first lead since 1-0 as he finished from nine meters out.
Oliveira tied the game with with 23 seconds left in the third, ripping him a goal with the man-advantage as the two teams entered the fourth quarter tied.
Churnside's third gave the Cardinal a 9-8 lead with 7:13 to go. Bonanni's lob shot on a breakaway hit the cross-bar and Erdelyi knotted the game at 9-9 with 5:27 by firing home a shot from seven meters away.
Szabo hit the the post with 3:35 left, and on Stanford's ensuing possession, Forrest Watkins went with an off-speed shot over the defense for a 10-9 Cardinal lead with 3:19 remaining.
The Tigers drew an exclusion, but Holland stopped Erdelyi's shot. After a Malkis save and quick outlet pass, Erdelyi scored in transition with 2:22 left to tie the game at 10-10.
Obert snuffed out an entry pass giving Pacific possession with two minutes to go. But Holland made the save. Malkis stoned Bowen on the other end and the Tigers drew an exclusion with 55 seconds left in regulation.
Obert finished on the door step on a pass from Oliveira for a 11-10 led with 46 seconds left. Malkis made the save on Churnside, but Stanford maintained possession with 34 seconds to go.
Stanford took a man-advantage with 14 seconds left, but the Tigers defense forced a high shot with five seconds to go for the win.
Pacific finished the game 7-of-12 on the power play, while holding Stanford to just seven opportunities with the man advantage (3-of-7).
Pacific, the regular season champion of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, and USC, the MPSF tournament winner ensure a national title for the MPSF for the 22nd consecutive year. Pacific is the first team outside of the four PAC-12 institutions to make the NCAA title game since 2000 (UC San Diego) and will look be the first champion outside the group of USC, Stanford, UCLA and Cal since 1997, when MPSF member Pepperdine took the championship.
The men's water polo team will look to bring Pacific its third national championship in any sport, and join the women's volleyball program (1985 & 1986) as national championship programs at Pacific.