Papanikolaou leads Cal to second straight water polo title

Dec 4, 2022, 4:01 AM | Updated: 6:16 pm

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Nikolaos Papanikolaou had seven goals, Roberto Valera gave California the lead with 41 seconds left and the Golden Bears scored five straight goals to stun Southern California 13-12 and win their second straight NCAA men’s water polo championship on Sunday.

Cal (23-2) beat the Trojans (20-7) by an identical score last season when Papanikolaou had a field block in the closing seconds to preserve the win. It was the Golden Bears record 16th championship and they improved to 7-1 against USC when playing for the title.

USC led 12-8 when Massimo Di Martire scored 47 seconds into the final quarter. Valera started the Bears’ comeback when he scored with 5:02 left to play. Papanikolaou scored a no-look goal from in front of the net on a lob from Jack Deely to get Cal within two. Papanikolaou scored on power play when he tapped in a rebound to get the Bears within a goal with 3:22 to go.

Papanikolaou tied the game on a power-play goal with 90 seconds left and Valera followed with his winner.

It was the fifth national championship for Cal coach Kirk Everist and he noted ‘Papa’ was the difference.

“We were struggling and USC played great,” he said. “Papa came up with a few great shots. We were riding him all game.

“It was a great effort by our guys. They didn’t give up and lose hope. They kept rollin’ and lookin’ for an opportunity and pounced.”

Papanikolaou, who earned MVP honors despite being surrounded by four Trojan defenders most of the match, connected on 7 of 9 shots and drew seven exclusions which led to half of the Golden Bears’ 14 power plays. Valera finished with four goals on eight shots. Adrian Weinberg had 12 blocks and two steals in goal — his second steal came with 7 seconds left to preserve the victory. Deely finished with a goal and four assists.

Jake Ehrhardt, Max Miller and Di Martire all scored twice for the Trojans. Kyle McKenney blocked eight shots in goal.

Papanikolaou scored three straight goals for Cal, the last one with one second left in the first quarter for a 4-3 Golden Bears lead.

Ashworth Molthen scored on a power play in the final minute and Tom McGuire’s natural goal with two seconds left gave the Trojans an 8-6 lead at halftime.

Cal’s only two losses this season came from Stanford by scores of 12-11 and 12-9.

The Trojans, with 10 titles under their belts, have been in every championship match since 2005 — with the exception coming in 2019 when Stanford beat Pacific in the finale.

The Golden Bears are the first team to successfully defend their title since UCLA did it in 2014-15.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Orlando Magic's Paolo Banchero, top, dunks during the second half of an NBA basketball game against...
Associated Press

Banchero headlines field for All-Star Rising Stars event

Paolo Banchero’s rookie season will include a trip to NBA All-Star weekend. The Orlando Magic forward and No. 1 pick in last year’s draft was announced Tuesday as a participant in this year’s Rising Stars Game, to be held in Salt Lake City on Feb. 17, two nights before the All-Star Game. Banchero — who […]
2 days ago
Ben Kennedy, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Development and Strategy for NASCAR at his offi...
Associated Press

Column: Kennedy takes bold risks with NASCAR family business

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Ben Kennedy may someday be the head of NASCAR. If it happens, it won’t be a case of nepotism. Yes, he is the the great-grandson of NASCAR’s founder, but the 31-year-old graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in sports management and has spent his entire life learning […]
2 days ago
Jon Rahm hold the winner's trophy after the American Express golf tournament on the Pete Dye Stadiu...
Associated Press

Column: The only rivalry in golf is about tours, not players

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Jon Rahm began his year by winning two in a row on the PGA Tour. Rory McIlroy began his year with birdies on the last two holes to win in Dubai. This would seem to have the look of golf’s latest rivalry in the making, except that it will be […]
2 days ago
Florida center Jason Jitoboh (33) runs up court after making a shot against Alabama during the firs...
Associated Press

Jitoboh’s recovery coming into focus year after eye injury

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jason Jitoboh won’t step foot onto a basketball court without his glasses. And he doesn’t even need them to see. The darkened lenses merely provide extra protection for what eyesight Jitoboh has remaining. Florida’s 6-foot-11 center took a finger to his left eye at Tennessee last January and spent the better […]
2 days ago
FILE - Former heavyweight boxing world champion Wladimir Klitschko leaves after a meeting with Germ...
Associated Press

Boxer Klitschko joins fight against Olympic path for Russia

GENEVA (AP) — Olympic gold medalist Wladimir Klitschko has joined Ukraine’s fight against IOC plans to let some Russians compete at the 2024 Paris Summer Games. The former heavyweight champion suggested in a video message published Monday that sports leaders will be accomplices to the war if athletes from Russia and its military ally Belarus […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

UK police chiefs apologize to Hillsborough disaster families

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s police chiefs promised a “cultural change” on Tuesday as they apologized to families of the victims in the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, the U.K.’s worst sports disaster which saw 97 people killed during a crush of soccer fans at an overcrowded stadium. “For what happened, as a senior policing leader, I profoundly […]
2 days ago
Papanikolaou leads Cal to second straight water polo title