Women's water polo's junior center reaches Sun Devil top-10 all time scoring list

Coaches and teammates agree, this is only the beginning for Alkistis Benekou's success

Junior Alkistis Benekou has broken into the top-10 all time scorers for ASU water polo, and its expected that her success will only continue to flourish throughout the season. 

When teammate Lena Mihailovic first met Benekou, she was beyond intimidated. Mihailovic said it all goes back to 2011 in Madrid, Spain where Benekou’s Greece Junior National Team took home the gold in the LEN Junior Water Polo European Championship.

At that time Mihailovic didn't realize that in a few short years she’d be playing with a pivotal member of the ASU water polo team, but she is extremely grateful to have Benekou on her team. 

“Playing with her, at the beginning was an honor,” Mihailovic said.

Coming off the 2016 season, Benekou was already training to become one of the top scorers on the team and now is in the top ten all-time scorers in ASU women’s water polo history. Benekou reached this tremendous feat two weeks ago in the Wolverine Invitational.

Benekou believes she has improved greatly since her first season with the Sun Devils in 2014. Playing internationally is extremely different than playing collegiate water polo, and while there are different techniques and rules to learn, one aspect Benekou learned quickly was how physical the game is in the United States.

“Looking back my freshman year when I came here it was like such a different type of water polo,” Benekou said. “I’m still adjusting.”

Despite her success this year, putting up 32 goals and 21 steals thus far, her most impressive performance was against University of La Verne on March 12, when her seven goals propelled the Sun Devils to a 17-3 victory over the Leopards.

Benekou refuses to take all of the credit and instead defers her success back to her teammates, saying that she wouldn’t be able to make the shots she does without them.

That confidence is seen from her teammates and coaches as well.

“I know if I can get her a good pass to center she’ll be able to do something with it,” Mihailovic said.

Mihailovic said that many times when she showed up early to practice Benekou would have already finished her warm-ups.

Benekou's actions of showing up early to practice and mentoring other players proves how important water polo is to her.

“She teaches me good examples,” Mihailovic said. “She teaches me good habits and makes me a better athlete.”

Benekou is constantly putting in the extra work — she works hard in practice and even harder in the games. Head coach Todd Clapper said she has a “run through a brick wall mentality”, which is extremely helpful from the standpoint that she will do whatever it takes to be the best.

“I don't know that there's anybody who is as competitive as (Benekou) and I think sometimes that's a challenge for her because she wants to focus on the end result,” Clapper said. “She wants to work harder and she wants to throw up more weight in the weight room.”

Clapper said they now need to work on getting her to focus on certain techniques. Clapper said he believes that if they can hone in on those smaller things there’s no doubt that Benekou can be one of the greatest centers in the country.

Benekou may not be the top scorer in the country just yet, but Clapper and the rest of the team believe she has something special going for her.

“She's been a great contributor,” Clapper said. “And I think we’re tapping into a complete other level that no one’s seen from her.”

Benekou and the No. 6 Sun Devils will head back out west to Berkeley, Calif., where they will take on No. 4 Cal this Saturday at 1 p.m.

Reach the reporter at klbroder@asu.edu or follow @KellyB1459 on Twitter.

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