No. 4 Bears Sweep MPSF Weekly Awards
Catharyn hayne / klcfotos
Roberto Valera, left, was named MPSF Newcomer of the Week while Nikolaos Papanikolaou was named MPSF Player of the Week.
Papanikolaou named player of the week; Valera Wins Newcomer Honors
After going spotless against four ranked opponents in the Aggie Shootout last weekend, Cal’s No.4 men’s water polo team swept away the weekly MPSF awards on Monday when junior Nikolaos Papanikolaou was named conference player of the week and freshman Roberto Valera took home the honors of the newcomer of the week.
Papanikolaou, the reigning MPSF Player of the Year and ACWPC’s first all-star team, dominated all weekend with 15 goals, 21 earned exclusions and five interceptions as the Bears beat No.7 Pacific, No. 8 UC Davis, No. 11 San Jose State, and No. 19 Cal Baptist. He opened the tournament with a career-high seven goals in a 16-8 win over Cal Baptist, then three goals and eight exclusions in a 14-11 win over UC Davis. Papanikolaou added two goals and three earned shutouts in an 11-9 triumph over San Jose St., then finished the weekend with eight more earned shutouts and three goals in a 13-11 win over Pacific. Papanikolaou scored the Bears’ last two goals against UOP in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
This is the first player of the week title awarded to Papanikolaou by the MPSF. He was named MPSF Newcomer of the Week twice in his debut season in 2019.
Valera made an immediate impression in his first collegiate action after missing the first six games of the season as he faced Spain at the FINA World Junior Championships. After appearing in just two practices at Cal, Valera netted eight goals, six assists and three steals over the weekend, including back-to-back assists on Papanikolaou’s late goals which took the win over Pacific. He also recorded his first hat trick with three goals against San Jose State.
The Bears (10-0) host the MPSF Invitational this weekend, with 14 teams all ranked in the CWPA’s top 20 and overall top 10. The tournament will run Friday through Sunday and be held at the both at the Spieker Aquatics Complex and the Legends Aquatic Center. Ticket information can be found here.