Fresno State water polo wins its third straight GCC championship title


Courtesy of Fresno State Athletics

Fresno State places its name on the championship bracket on April 30.

By Alexis Bruno, Reporter

The third time was the charm for the Fresno State water polo team as it won its third-straight Golden Coast Conference (GCC) title this past weekend. 

After losing six seniors last season and leading scorer Fanny Muzsnay in the transfer portal, Head Coach Natalie Benson described how they continued the success. 

“Realistically, one wouldn’t really necessarily expect us to have the season we’ve had, but I try to be really honest with the girls when we showed up in the fall,” Benson said. “Like, hey, I think we can win and we can do this, but freshmen, you guys need to be sophomores by the time you guys get back in January, and seniors and juniors, I need you guys to lead.”

The improvements showed for the ‘Dogs this season with two standout players earning accolades heading into the GCC championship. Utility player Brooke Ochoa earned Player of the Year and attacker Hailey Andress was named Newcomer of the Year.  Ochoa also earned GCC MVP Player of the Tournament. 

Andress described to The Collegian the emotion she felt when finding out she got the honor. 

“I was surprised. I didn’t really think about it much all season. I was hoping for it, but I wasn’t waiting for it [or] expecting that I was going to get it,” Andress said. 

The achievements only continued for the Bulldogs as they racked up wins at the 2023 GCC Women’s Championship from April 28-30 at the Aztec Aquaplex.  

The water polo team poses and celebrates with the championship trophy. (Courtesy of Fresno State Athletics)

Fresno State 14, California Baptist 9 (April 28)

The first round began in a matchup against the No. 8 seed, California Baptist University (CBU), taking on the ‘Dogs as the No. 1 seed. 

The Lancers were fast to get on the board with a 2-0 lead, but the Bulldogs matched the energy. Andress and Bulldog attacker Isabella Sonkoly combined for two goals to tie up the game. 

Shortly after, attacker Elisa Grim scored to give the ‘Dogs a 3-2 lead with just over three minutes in the first quarter. The Bulldogs stayed ahead for the rest of the game. 

The ‘Dogs ended the quarter scoring three additional goals while holding the Lancers to only two goals. CBU trailed 6-4. 

In the second quarter, the goals continued for the Bulldogs, making four shots to extend the lead. The Lancers had few answers for the Dogs’ defense, only putting up one point. 

The ‘Dogs led at halftime 10-5. 

There was no change in the third quarter. The Bulldogs dominated on offense, out-scoring the Lancers 3-1. 

Trailing by seven and entering the final quarter, the Lancers began to pick up the pace on two back-to-back goals, but attacker Ella Simone put the ‘Dogs back on the board once again. 

The Lancers made one goal after but it wasn’t enough to come back. The ‘Dogs defeated CBU 14-9. 

Bulldog utility player Brooke Ochoa ready to throw the ball. (Courtesy of Fresno State Athletics)

Fresno State 15, San Diego State 11 (April 29)

In the semifinal round, the ‘Dogs faced the No. 4 seed San Diego State. 

The shots came early for the Bulldogs getting on the board in just the first 15 seconds of play via a goal by utility player Jillian Schultz to go up 1-0. 

The Aztecs had an answer with two successful goals, but the Dogs’ offense continued to be unstoppable. 

Ochoa, Sonkoly and attacker Kaitlin Howarth each put up a goal to close off the first quarter. The Bulldogs led 4-2. 

The second quarter opened up on a 5-1 run by the ‘Dogs to extend their lead 9-3. 

Despite the Aztecs being down by six, they didn’t back down. Three consecutive shots cut the deficit to 9-6 with 26 seconds remaining in the quarter. 

A buzzer beater by Howarth gave the ‘Dogs a 10-6 lead at halftime. 

In the third quarter, the Bulldogs out-scored the Aztecs 3-2 to keep the lead going into the final quarter.  

Attacker Daphne Guevremont put the ‘Dogs on the board to jumpstart the fourth quarter, 14-8. 

Later, the Aztecs scored twice to go down only four goals but Andress responded to give the Bulldogs a 15-10 lead with just under two minutes left. 

The Aztecs ended the game with one final shot, not enough to take the win. The ‘Dogs took the win, 15-11, to go into the final round. 

Hailey Andress looks for a pass at the Aztec Aquaplex. (Courtesy of Fresno State Athletics)

Fresno State 5, Pacific 3 (April 30)

This matchup was a low scoring game showcasing a defensive competition against Pacific seeded at No. 3.

The ‘Dogs were first to score on a shot by Schultz to take a 1-0 lead. 

The game remained scoreless for just under three minutes until the Tigers got on the board to tie 1-1, ending the first quarter. 

In the second quarter, Guevremont scored to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead. With great defense, the ‘Dogs held the Tigers scoreless the entire quarter. 

After halftime, the ‘Dogs went on a 2-0 run with shots by Howarth and Schultz, but the Tigers had a response. Being down by three, the Tigers connected on offense to have a 2-0 run of their own to shorten the deficit. 

The Bulldogs remained ahead 4-3 at the end of the third quarter. 

In a close matchup, the game came down to the final quarter. Both defenses came out aggressive, allowing no goals for just under six minutes until Andress scored for the ‘Dogs to seal the win. 

The Bulldogs took a 5-3 victory over the Tigers to win the GCC Championship title.

Fresno State secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships that will take place in Stockton from May 10-14 at the Chris Kjeldsen Pool.