Aug 19, 2019

Club ‘Dogs crowned champs

The Fresno State women’s club water polo team improved on last year’s third-place national finish by defeating top-ranked Cal Poly in the national title game this season. The Bulldogs defeated the Mustangs 4-3 to become champions.
Andrew Riggs / The Collegian

Entering the Women’s National Collegiate Club Championship, Fresno State women’s club water polo coach Patrick Guyett had one goal in mind.

“To win nationals,� Guyett said.

That they did.

Laura Imai scored twice as the Bulldogs, ranked No. 2 in the nation by Women’s Collegiate Club, defeated No. 1 Cal Poly 4-3 in the championship game at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. on Sunday.

Preparing for the nationals was difficult for the Bulldogs due to the lack of swimming pools to practice in, but that didn’t matter.

“We practice twice a week,� said Guyett, who was named coach of the year. “Between school and work it’s difficult, but I got a lot of smart girls that know how to play. We wanted to show the nation what we could do.�

Imai, the tournament’s most valuable player, scored on a penalty shot at 2:28 of the second quarter to give Fresno State a 3-1 lead. Imai capped the scoring for the Bulldogs with a backhanded goal in the fourth quarter.

Fresno State trailed 1-0 in the first quarter when Cal Poly’s Colleen Scheitrum scored on an assist from Elisa Hopper. The Bulldogs rallied in the final minute of the quarter when Erika Tasier scored on a direct shot with 50 seconds remaining.

In the second quarter, Katie Cosgrove scored on an unassisted goal with 6:36 remaining in the second quarter, to give Fresno State a 3-1 lead at the half.

The Mustangs trimmed the lead to 3-2 when Scheitrum scored her second goal with 2:43 remaining in the third quarter.

Goalies Jacque Ritchie and Sarah Behlen each recorded a save in 14 minutes of play for Fresno State.

To advance to the nationals, Fresno State had to play catch-up against UC-Davis last month.

The Bulldogs rallied in the fourth quarter against UC-Davis when Teri Bartel scored a goal to send the game into overtime.

Megan Eldredge scored in overtime as Fresno State defeated UC-Davis 5-4 at Clovis West on April 14-15 to advance to the nationals.

“We came out really strong in the first quarter,� said club president and co-captain Beth Bartlett. “We had goals in the first two minutes of the game and the other coach called a timeout and that brought down our adrenaline rush after that.�

Fresno State jumped out to a 3-0 first quarter lead before UC-Davis answered with two goals in the second quarter.

“We started pretty good,� Guyett said. “They made a good comeback and they took it to us.�

The Bulldogs beat UC-Davis three times this season. Both teams compete in the Northern California division.

Fresno State’s winning goal came on a quick-quick man-up goal.

“One of their girls got ejected and usually it takes time to set the play up, and right away we tied it up.�

Guyett was confident that his team would do fine at the nationals.

“They’re dedicated to win,� Guyett said. “Not afraid to get physical which is a good thing.�

Fresno State opened up at nationals against Notre Dame on Friday.

Last season, Fresno State placed third at the nationals.

“We kind of have an understanding the type of the competition will be out there,� Eldredge said. “You don’t want to underestimate your competition.�

Before the tournament, Bartlett looked forward to competiting at nationals.

“Very good tournament,� Bartlett said. “All of the teams we’re playing are ranked below us in the polls. It’s really difficult to judge if we never played against them and we don’t have a common opponent. But we have a very good shot at winning the championship�

Despite the lack of practices, Eldredge felt the team could perform well at the nationals.

“It’s difficult because we have to work around our schedule,� she said. “We understand that and we’re not as fortunate as other teams. It gave us more of an edge.�

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