BRIDGEPORT, Pa. -- Alex Stankevitch, Eddie Ajuz and Michelle Woods were honored as the Referee of the Year, Most Improved Referee and Rookie of the Year, respectively, by their fellow officials as the 2008 Collegiate Water Polo Association Referee Awards were announced by CWPA Director of Officials Thomas Tracey.
A 1998 graduate of the University of California-Santa Barbara, Stankevitch picked up his second Referee of the Year award as he previously received the honor in 2003.
It caps off a season in which he was selected to seven championship referee crews as Stankevitch was picked for the Southern Championship, Eastern Championship and NCAA Championship during the 2007 men's season before taking on assignments at the Elite 6, Southern, Eastern and NCAA Championships during the 2008 women's season.
The award ties him with Mark Koganov (2007, 2004) and Loren Bertocci (2001, 1999) for the second most Referee of the Year awards in conference history as the trio trails Michael Goldenberg (2005, 2002, 2000).
But for Stankevitch, the award is due to the efforts of a number of people.
"I need to thank a number of people. First of all, Loren Bertocci who influenced my referring career by discovering me during the first referee clinic/tournament at Navy in 1998. He was the one who took a chance on me with some critical and challenging assignments."
"Another person is my Merced Junior College coach who gave me the opportunity to referee some games in 1995 and pushed me in the direction of becoming a referee."
Overall, the award marks Stankevitch's third CWPA honor as he received the 2001 Most Improved Referee Award and moves him to within one award of tying Koganov, who received the 2000 and 2002 Most Improved Referee awards, as being the most decorated official in conference history. Further, he joins Koganov as being the only officials to receive both the Most Improved and Referee of the Year awards.
"Mark, Michael and I are very good friends inside and outside the pool," adds Stankevitch in regards to his place among the all-time leaders in CWPA officiating awards.
"Michael was already a top referee from the ex-USSR, while Mark and I started out at the same level and moved up together. Now, all three of us are FINA international referees and talk about the game and our experiences in and outside the country on various refereeing trips. We try to share this collective experience with other referees, as well."
Ajuz and Woods earned their first officiating awards from the Collegiate Water Polo Association this academic season as they were named the Most Improved Referee and Rookie of the Year, respectively.
A 2002 graduate of the University of Central Florida, Ajuz was selected to the Elite 6 and Eastern Championship referee crews during the 2008 women's season.
"I credit winning this award to the countless hours I put in traveling to the many tournaments yearly, weather big or small. Also, I credit all my fellow referees who have helped me through the years with their advice and mentoring," notes Ajuz.
Born in Los Angles, California and a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Ajuz grew up in Pembroke Pines, Florida and attended Cooper City High School where he played water polo for four years. While at UCF from 2000-2002, Ajuz played two years of club water polo in the Collegiate Water Polo Association.
Following college, he worked internationally as a financial analyst first in Brazil (2004) and later Spain (2005) before moving to Southern Florida where he changed careers and became a high school teacher and full-time referee.
A 2006 graduate of the University of California-Berkeley, Woods excelled in her first year with the Collegiate Water Polo Association earning assignments in the men's Pacific Coast Division and the women's Pacific Coast, Sierra Pacific and Texas Divisions. In addition, she was selected to referee the women's Sierra Pacific Division Championship.
The fourth largest collegiate sports championship organization in the United States behind only the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), the Collegiate Water Polo Association is comprised of over 250 member institutions which compete for division, conference and national titles on either the club or varsity level in men's and women's competition.