Papanikolaou, Everist Win National Awards
The 2021 NCAA-champion Cal men's water polo team dominated the ACWPC postseason awards that were announced Tuesday, with center Nikolaos Papanikolaou being named National Player of the Year and Kirk Everist earning National Coach of the Year honors.
The Bears also placed six student-athletes on the 2021 ACWPC All-America team, tied for the most with UCLA. Papanikolaou and attacker Jack Deely were named to the First Team, junior goalie Adrian Weinberg and freshmen Roberto Valera and Max Casabella took Second Team honors while graduate student Nikos Delagrammatikas was named to the Third Team.
Papanikolaou becomes the 15th Cal men's water polo student-athlete to be tabbed as the National Player of the Year and the first since Luca Cupido won the honor in 2017. Papanikolaou, who was also named the MPSF Player of the Year for the second straight season, led the conference with 68 goals, 35 steals and 112 earned exclusions.
Everist captured the National Coach of the Year award for the third time in his 20-year tenure at Cal after leading the Bears to a 24-2 record, the NCAA championship and the MPSF regular season title. He also won the award in 2006 and 2016. It's the ninth time in program history a Cal head coach has garnered the honor.
Papanikolaou was named an ACWPC All-American for the third straight season, including the second consecutive time he's earned a spot on the First Team.
After capturing Second Team honors last season, Deely landed a well-deserved spot on the First Team this year. He led the MPSF with 103 points and 54 assists while also ranking third in the conference with 49 goals. Deely's biggest assist of the season came on the game-winning goal with 28 seconds remaining in the NCAA final, lifting the Bears to a 13-12 victory over USC.
Weinberg earned his second All-America award after taking honorable mention as a freshman in 2019. He led the MPSF with 230 saves – despite missing the season's first four games while competing for Team USA at the FINA World Junior Championships – and also paced the conference with 1.5 steals per game. Weinberg also made history with a 20-save performance in a 7-6 win over then-No. 1 USC on Oct. 9, becoming just the 14th MPSF goalie ever to have a 20-save game.
Valera, who was also tabbed the MPSF Newcomer of the Year, ranked second in the conference behind Papanikoalou with 2.3 goals per game and second behind Deely at 4.0 points and 1.7 assists per game. He also ranked second in the MPSF in total points (79) and total assists (34) despite missing the season's first six games after playing for Spain at the World Junior Championships.
Casabella was arguably right behind Valera as the conference's top freshman this season, ranking third in the MPSF with 2.2 goals per game and fourth with 3.5 and 1.3 assists per game. He dominated the 2021 NCAA Championship with 10 goals in two games.
Delagrammatikas earned his second straight All-America honor after being named to the Second Team last season. He tied for fourth in the MPSF with nine field blocks while adding 23 goals, 10 assists and 14 steals. Delagrammatikas also scored the game-winning goal with 28 seconds left to beat USC in the NCAA Championship match.
Of Cal's six All-Americans, all but Delagrammatikas will return next season.