Fresno State water polo wins back-to-back GCC crown

Fresno State utility Savannah Fitzgerald goes for a shot in the game against Fresno Pacific on Feb 19, 2022 at the Fresno State Aquatics Center. (Estela Anahi Jaramillo/ The Collegian)

Fresno State water polo wins its second Golden Coast Conference (GCC) title.

Returning as the 2021 GCC champions, the Fresno State water polo team entered the tournament with a title to defend. 

The Bulldogs defeated Loyola Marymount (LMU) on Sunday, April 24 at Riverside with the score of 11-8, clincing their back-to-back GCC championship titles and punching their ticket to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season. 

Bulldog goalkeeper Paula Nieto Jasny was named the GCC tournament most valuable player (MVP), the second consecutive Bulldog to receive the MVP title. 

Fanni Muzsnay and Yesenia Preciado both earned ALL-GCC tournament team honors. 

Muzsnay helped the Bulldogs clinch their victory over LMU with a game-high six goals. Additional scorers  included Brooke Ochoa who scored two. Savannah Fitzgerald scored one, Emily Diacono scored one and Sienna Jagielski also scored one. 

The Bulldogs ended their conference season undefeated, with a 7-0 record and a 19-7 record. They finished the GCC tournament with a 16-game winning streak.

Head coach Natalie Benson explained how difficult it is for a team to repeat as conference champions, especially when there are a lot of expectations on the team. 

“We are a very talented and really competitive team, but there is a lot of external pressure from the win streak and the rankings. The team did a great job of buying into the idea that the only ranking that matters is the one that you have at the end of the season,” Benson said. 

She emphasized that the GCC trophy wasn’t theirs; that they could lose and anyone could win the championship title, Benson said the team took this mindset to heart and replicated that in the water. 

“I am really proud of the team,” she said. “These games, they’re tough. I think everyone is really focusing their eyes on the prize, the final result.”

Fresno State center Emily Nicholson finished her final GCC tournament as a Bulldog and said it was amazing to win another title. 

“This championship feels equally as amazing as last year’s championship. This is what we’ve been aiming for since last year, and it feels unreal that we achieved back-to-back championships,” Nicholson said. 

She praised the work her teammates put in all season to get to where they are right now. 

“All of the work that everyone has put in this season to build off of what we did last season makes this moment so incredible. I am so proud of this team,” Nicholson said. 

Fresno State enters the NCAA tournament next month. They head into the quarterfinal round against USC on May 6 at 1 p.m. 

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