The women’s water polo team captured their first state title, after defeating Riverside in the finals of the California state tournament at American River College near Sacramento. The Lady Hornets held on in what was there toughest game of the season, outlasting Riverside 8-7 in triple-overtime.
The newly crowned California State Champions, led by gritty defense and tournament MVP Angelica Hernandez made it a perfect 35-0 on the season. The Lady Hornets were well familiar with #2 ranked Tigers, defeating them in six straight contests this season.
The girls made quick work in their semifinal match, defeating Foothill College 13-5. Setting up a rematch from the regional tournament finals the previous week. Like the regional finals Fullerton again got off to a sluggish start.
“I don’t know what it is, but it takes us a while to get going,” said Head Coach Gabriel Martinez.
Like they have all season long, when the game was on the line the girls played their best. The Lady Hornets defense in the second half was stifling. The Tigers leading scorer, Nikki Bell who came into the contest averaging five goals per game this year, was held to just one goal.
Perhaps most impressive, Fullerton was forced to finish the game without their top player and tournament MVP Hernandez, who was lost due to foul trouble.
“Our depth set us apart this season. Gabby Garcia came in and helped neutralize Riverside’s best player,” said Martinez “In previous seasons we would see a drop-off in production, that never happened this year.”
Confidence was another key to not only this victory, but the entire season. The girls found themselves trailing Riverside late for the third time in as many games, but there was never a moment of doubt or panic.
“We have the mentality that we will win close games,” said Martinez “I have instilled in the girls confidence that we will outwork every team late in games.”
The Lady Hornets captain and MVP of the tournament Hernandez was forced out of the game because of foul trouble, but her presence was critical even outside the pool.
“Angelica Hernandez had such an impact on the game,” said Martinez “even when she had to come out of the game, she was picking the other girls up and even helping me coach them up.”
Coach Martinez has many accolades and has a track record of success. The coach of two state title winning teams while at Golden West, Martinez never had a season quite this special.
“I have coached National teams and won two titles with Golden West, but this definitely ranks above those,” said Martinez “I never had a season like this, winning 35 straight. This team and these girls are something really special.”
The Lady Hornets historic undefeated run marks the first perfect season in team history. The girls are also the only women’s athletic team to record 35 straight victories in a season. Fortunately for the Lady Hornets, 14 of the 21 girls will be back next season, and fortunately for all of FC, Martinez will be returning next season.