For the second year in a row the Cal men’s water polo team won the NCAA championship.
And for the second year in a row the Golden Bears swept the individual national awards.
Junior center Nikolaos Papanikolaou was named the ACWPC Player of the Year for the second straight season and Kirk Everist repeated as Coach of the Year.
Papanikolaou, goalie Adrian Weinberg and sophomore attacker Max Casabella were chosen to the All-America first team and Jack Deely and Roberto Valera landed spots on the third team.
Cal won its 16th all-time NCAA water polo title — most of any program — and its fifth under Everist (2006-07-16-21-22). He has been named national Coach of the Year four times.
The Bears finished the 2022 season with a 23-2 record.
Papanikolaou earned his fourth consecutive All-America first-team spot and will get the chance to win a fifth year season, thanks to the COVID-19 eligibility exemption.
He led Cal with 62 goals and topped the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation with 80 exclusions drawn. He scored seven goals in the Bears’ 13-12 comeback win over USC in the championship game, three of them in the fourth quarter as Cal overcame a five-goal deficit.
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Everist, in the video at the top of this story, talks after Cal’s national championship victory about about Papanikolaou and his place among the Bears’ greatest all-time players. (He begins focusing on Papa about 1 minute into the video).
Papanikolaou, a native of Athens, Greece, is the seventh player to repeat at national Player of the Year.
He and Everist become just the second player-coach tandem to sweep consecutive national honors, joining UCLA coach Guy Baker and his star player Matt Swanson, who achieved the double-double in 1995-96.
Here are thumbnails on the achievements of the Bears’ other honorees, courtesy of Cal Athletics:
— Weinberg recorded his third All-American selection and his initial First Team honor. After a summer playing with the U.S. National Team, he ranked second in the MPSF this season with 229 saves and fourth with 29 steals.
— Casabella finished fourth in the MPSF with 61 goals and was third on the Bears with 17 steals. He scored four goals in Cal’s NCAA semifinal win over Pacific and also had four in an overtime win over then-No. 1 UCLA during the regular season. Casabella also notched a career-high six goals in an overtime win over No. 6 Long Beach State.
— Deely earned his third straight All-American honor after leading the MPSF in assists for the second straight season with 55. He also ranked fourth in the conference with 85 points.
— Valera was sixth in the MPSF with 54 goals and seventh with 82 points. He also scored the game-winning goal in the Bears’ victory over USC in the national title game.
Cover photos of Nikolaos Papanikolaou and Kirk Everist by Catharyn Hayne, KLC fotos
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo