Fresno State hired a two-time Olympic medalist as its women’s water polo coach.
Natalie (Golda) Benson, a U.S. Water Polo Hall of Famer who won silver and bronze medals at the Olympics, will lead the Bulldogs into their inaugural season in spring 2018, the university announced Thursday.
Benson, 34, spent the past three seasons at Marist, her first NCAA Division I head-coaching job, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
56-49 Record of new Fresno State women’s water polo coach Natalie Benson in three seasons at Marist, her first Division I head-coaching job
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She was 56-49 overall, won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season championship in 2015 and twice was named the MAAC Coach of the Year. Benson’s teams reached the conference tournament championships in each of her three seasons and finished runner-up twice.
“From her collegiate career to her Olympic experience and now as a college coach,” Fresno State athletic director Jim Bartko said, “we know we have found the right person with the integrity, the drive and the coaching expertise to put Fresno State on the water polo map.”
Benson, who could not be reached for comment, will be introduced at a June 30 news conference.
She is as talented of a coach as she was a player. I’m confident she will have equal success in her coaching career as she did in her playing days.
Marist athletic director Tim Murray, on new Bulldogs women’s water polo coach Natalie Benson
Of the 33 Division I women’s water polo programs, 15 are in California. The latter group includes fellow Cal States Bakersfield, Northridge, Long Beach, San Diego and San Jose.
Fresno State is adding women’s water polo partly to meet Title IX gender-equity requirements while also bringing back the men’s wrestling program that was cut in 2006. The Bulldogs competed in men’s water polo for 34 years until that program was dropped for budgetary reasons in 1992.
“I am thrilled and honored to have been named head coach of the new women’s water polo program at Fresno State,” Benson said in a news release. “The addition of our great sport is fantastic for the growth and visibility of water polo in the United States.
“Excitement from the Valley as well as the water polo community is high, and we have a wealth of talent right in our back yard. This program offers a tremendous opportunity to young women looking to compete at the highest level.”
Natalie Benson, a U.S. Water Polo Hall of Famer, was a three-time All-American who captured three national titles at UCLA and won silver and bronze in the Olympics.
Benson also serves as head coach for the USA Women’s Cadet National Team (17 and younger) and was appointed last month to the NCAA D-I Water Polo Committee.
A three-time, first-team All American at UCLA, Benson led the Bruins to three national championships. Amid her college career, Benson was on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team that won bronze in Athens. After college, she was on the U.S. team that finished second at the 2008 Beijing Games and included ex-UCLA and Edison High standout Jaime Hipp.
Last year, Benson was inducted into the U.S. Water Polo Hall of Fame.
“She is as talented of a coach as she was a player,” Marist athletic director Tim Murray said in a news release. “I’m confident she will have equal success in her coaching career as she did in her playing days.”
Fresno State women’s water polo
- July 16 : Hiring of assistant coach.
- Summer 2016: Recruiting begins.
- November 2016: Early signing period; recruits can sign national letter of intent with the Bulldogs.
- August 2017: Student-athletes arrive on campus.
- Spring 2018: Women’s water polo begins competition.