Following four impressive victories this past weekend at the Aggie RoundUp, the top ranked men’s water polo team looks to continue its dominance in Saturday’s match against No. 6 Pacific at Uytengsu Aquatic Center.
The Trojans boast an undefeated record through 11 games, despite facing tough competition from teams such as No. 7 UC Santa Barbara and No. 8 UC Davis. The Trojan’s success in tournament play has come from the contributions of a variety of players. In last weekend’s game against UC Davis, 10 different players scored to propel the Trojans to a 16-9 victory.
Freshman goalie Sam Krutonog has also been a standout for the Trojans. In their 10-3 win against UC Santa Barbara at the Aggie Roundup, Krutonog made a career-high 10 saves, resulting in his selection as MPSF Newcomer of the Week. Krutonog is the second consecutive Trojan to be nominated for this award after freshman driver Hannes Daube’s performance the previous week.
Against Pacific, another challenging opponent, the Trojans seek to achieve the same focus, preparation and cooperative effort that propelled them to prior victories.
“It’s a lot of mental preparation, watching a lot of game footage,” redshirt junior two-meter Sam Slobodien said. “We prepare every day in and out of the water for two or three hours. I just have to focus every day, watch game film, prepare mentally, physically, emotionally. We’re all there, we’ve trained all summer.”
The Tigers, who are 5-3 on the season, are coming off of two back-to-back close losses in the Aggie RoundUp against No. 3 Cal and No. 7 UC Santa Barbara. Two of their losses this season have come against the Bears. The Tigers are led offensively by redshirt sophomore utility Luke Pavillard and junior attacker Engin Ege Colak. Ege Colak has remained one of the Tigers’ leading scorers since 2016, when he was selected as the 2016 Golden Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year.
Securing a victory against this talented Pacific team is crucial for the Trojans, as they aim to defend their No. 1 spot in the NCAA rankings.
“It would be huge,” said Slobodien of the opportunity to beat a top competitor. “It’s the first real matchup of the year. We’re really excited for it, and we just hope to play well. That’s what we do every time we go out there.”
With so many talented players on the Trojans’ roster, the team is aiming to play cohesively and take advantage of their opportunities to put up points.
“We just have to be one as a team,” Slobodien said. “We have to play unselfishly and finish our high-percentage opportunities.”
Slobodien also plays an important role as a leader of his team.
“My goal is to get all of the guys behind us,” he said. “We all have one common goal and that is to win a national championship.”
The match begins 1 p.m. Saturday at Uytengsu Aquatic Center.