49er victory in home opener sets tone for SoCal Tournament
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Updated: Sunday, September 30, 2012 18:09
Nonconference matches have offered about as much trepidation and cause for concern as a friendly swim at the YMCA for the ninth-ranked Long Beach State men’s water polo team.
Thursday night’s match against No. 15 Navy (12-1) yielded a very familiar story line, as the 49ers (11-2) ended up on the right side of another lopsided scoreboard in their 15-7 defeat of the Midshipmen.
While wins are always welcomed, news earlier in the day had the 49ers jumping for joy. Just hours before game time, ‘Niners coach Gavin Arroyo had to make adjustments to his depth chart after the NCAA notified the team that junior attacker Nick Rascon had been declared eligible for the remainder of the 2012 season.
Rascon’s eligibility was in question after he spent the spring semester at California. He transferred back to LBSU quickly, but missed an entire month as he worked through the NCAA appeals process. That process eventually worked in his favor, however, and the 49ers have gained another weapon for Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) play as a result.
“I don’t mind joining this team at this point in the season,” Rascon said when asked if playing a partial season was worth the loss of a full year of eligibility. “I know this group of guys has what it takes.”
The 49ers struck first in their home opener thanks to a penalty shot from Milos Vrzic just 1:18 into the game.
After a Midshipmen goal tied the score at 1, Matulis took matters into his own hands. The 6’11’’ junior planted himself in front of the goal and rose above the outstretched hands of defenders to score a pair of goals on back-to-back possessions. The 49ers led 4-2 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second half, the 49ers went back to their inside game. Matulis scored his third goal of the game, and center Devin Mefford tacked on two more on his way to a three-goal game. Matulis finished with a game-high four goals.
A once-close game turned into mop-up duty, as the 49ers cruised to the finish line behind Balint Meszaros’ shutout fourth quarter.
LBSU then headed to Santa Barbara for the SoCal Tournament. It started the tournament with an 11-10 loss to No. 8 Pacific on Saturday, but rebounded to beat St. Francis (NY) 12-4 later in the day.
The 49ers have outscored opponents 183-91 this season. Mefford credits the commanding scoring ratio to the play of his goalkeeper.
“It all comes from behind with Balint,” he said. “He’s given us a bolt of energy on the defensive end.”