By Tom Bequette, Online Sports Editor
// SportsStars Magazine selected the Acalanes women’s water polo team as their Northern California Team Of The Year on Aug. 17, for their undefeated season last year, the program’s second in a row.
The magazine announced on Aug. 6 that the Dons were one of the six finalists for the award alongside the Archbishop Mitty High School girls basketball team from San Jose, the Montgomery High School boys soccer team from Santa Rosa, the Sheldon High School boys basketball team from Sacramento, the Marin Catholic girls volleyball team from Kentfield, and the Bishop O’Dowd boys basketball team from Oakland. The website then held a public poll to decide which team would earn the title. Acalanes won the poll with 2,405 votes, which was nearly 51 percent of the total votes.
The team dominated in their season last year, winning the North Coast Section and state regional titles. They also extended the program’s winning streak to 54 games, their last loss being on Nov. 9, 2017.
“The last two years here, our team has just been incredible,” head coach Misha Buchel said. “I mean all of our seniors are going to play at Division 1 schools next year, and when you have that kind of division one talent and you combine it with the amount of dedication, commitment and sacrifice that they had, you have something amazing, so I give all the credit in the world to the girls.”
Many of the players also believe that the team’s talent was the key to their success.
“Last year’s team was honestly one in a million. Not only did we have such a large talent pool, but we also had a deep bench and this camaraderie that really allowed us to perform at the level we did,” 2020 alumni Zoe Benisek said.
Some of the players also credit Buchel’s coaching style for the team’s spirit and togetherness.
“We had such a sense of family and friendship, and that really starts with our coaches who create such a playful atmosphere during practice that allows our team to become super connected while still being able to have a productive practice and improve,” 2020 alumni Mala Neuman said.
The team hopes the award will draw more recognition to the program.
“The award means a lot to the team because water polo typically doesn’t get a lot of recognition, so it’s nice to feel honored for all of our hard work and dedication,” Benisek said. “It also means so much to our coaches who have been with the team for 15 years and are now finally reaping the rewards of all their time and dedication.”
While the award acknowledges the skill and commitment of last year’s team, many community members applaud the players for their efforts both in and outside of water polo.
“Over many years, Coach Buchel has built a program that emphasizes hard work, character, and integrity,” Acalanes Athletic Director Randy Takahashi said. “[Last] year’s team was outstanding in and out of the pool, and these awards, along with so many compliments from teachers, parents, and students, just testifies that they are truly outstanding student-athletes.”