"It was neat how it circled around like that," Stanford coach John Tanner said. "It was an honor to have two finalists (Dries and Melissa Seidemann). The last time we had two finalists was Brenda, maybe the greatest water polo player ever, and Jackie Frank, one of the greatest goalies ever."
Villa, who is the team captain for the United States national women's water polo team, saw a tweet on the award and told Dries she had won.
Neither Dries nor Seidemann was able to attend the ceremony honoring the top collegiate women's water polo player in the nation at the Olympic Club. They were busy with Villa, Stanford grads Jessica Steffens and Lolo Silver and incoming freshman Maggie Steffens with the USA national team in Kirishi, Russia.
The Americans will be participating in the FINA World League Super Final in China next week. Dries and Seidemann also had a couple of finals to complete.
Tanner accepted the award in Dries' place and both Dries and Seidemann's parents were in attendance.
"To me it is icing on the cake for a great season," Tanner said. "It was also a big deal since we beat Cal in the final and both players performed so well. Peter Cutino (a former Cal coaching legend) really enlivened the rivalry and made the Big Splash what it is. He did it on the men's side but the women naturally followed. Two of his granddaughters were there to present the award."
Team USA took 15 players to Russia and China and six of them are affiliated with Stanford, the most the Cardinal has had for a World Title team.
The team actually had a free day for sightseeing in St. Petersburg and Dries was able to visit a couple of museums. She also had to study for finals.
"Annika has developed into an incredible scoring threat and a really good defensive player," Tanner said. "She's very poised given the physical demands of the position."
Dries is the third Stanford player to earn the women's award, joining Frank (2003) and Villa (2002).
Dries was instrumental in Stanford's run to the NCAA title in 2011. She led the Cardinal with 58 goals, earning Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year and National Collegiate Championship Most Outstanding Player awards. She scored five goals in the Cardinal's 9-5 national title game victory over California.
Dries, Seidemann and Steffens will be sitting out next season as they will be preparing for the 2012 Olympics in London.
"It's going to be hard," Tanner said. "We're missing a lot of people we count on. Annika was pretty impressive finishing in the title game. Melissa, in both the semifinal and final, effectively eliminated the other team's offense. They could not hold their position against her."
It doesn't mean Stanford will be vulnerable next year. Tanner used 14 field players in the national tournament and figures the experience will come in handy next season.
"Victoria Kennedy played well as a 2-meter and a lot of people have already shown the capability of playing at a high level," he said. "We have a good group of freshmen coming in. We intend to be difficult to game plan against. We'll have a lot of dangerous people to account for."
Meanwhile, the rest of the team continued to reap the benefit of a national championship, Stanford's 101st NCAA title, with a ring presentation at Thursday's Athletic Board luncheon.