Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Bailey Hansen sends a shot on goal during a 2019 match.
Since she found out that Fresno State was going to add a women’s water polo program, Madera standout Bailey Hansen has wanted to be a Bulldog.
Now, the standout has her chance after signing a letter of commitment to play water polo for the Bulldogs, who finished ranked No. 10 in the country last season.
“My parents are so happy about me going to Fresno State,” she said “I’ve always wanted to be a Bulldog. That has been something that has pushed me. When I found out they got a women’s water polo team, I was beyond excited. I told my dad I was going to do everything and push myself as hard as I can because it was my destiny to go to school there. Even if they didn’t have a water polo team, I would have gone there and played somewhere else. I knew it was my desire to go to Fresno State because of my major. It’s the heart of me to do my major and do the sport I love to play.
They’ve always wanted me to be a Bulldog. I’ve grown up going to Fresno State football games. My mom and aunt graduated from Fresno State. It’s like I have Fresno State in me. I would have played water polo for club just for fun.
Hansen had her choice of schools from up and down California. She had UC Davis, Azusa Pacific and CSU Monterey Bay on her radar, as well as schools on the East Coast. However, her heart and mind was set on Fresno State.
“One thing that drew me to want to play at Fresno State was how much valley pride they had,” she said. “The minute you step on the pool deck, the girls showed how much they wanted to work for the valley. They are dedicated to doing this sport. Natalie Benson is such an amazing coach. I knew that was a school where I would get pushed the hardest and I can play at my full potential as a water polo player. They have girls from all over the place, but girls from all over the world come to Fresno. They still come to the valley and show they are dedicated to their team and show how much they care for their team.”
Hansen may not receive scholarship money from the school this season, but she has the opportunity to earn scholarship money by her hard work and determination.
“There were only six girls that got recruited to play at Fresno State and only one of them is receiving money,” Hansen said. “That is not affecting me by not getting money. All of the girls have to work to get their money, just like any other NCAA school. Only about 10 of the 30 girls on a team are on scholarship. It’s not affecting me. I have to sign a commitment letter that I’m playing at Fresno State. Natalie wants to see who is going to work and actually show their heart to the team to receive scholarship money.”
Hansen said one of her best attributes is how vocal she is in the pool and on the pool deck.
“If I’m in the water or sitting on the bench, I’m always trying to push the team,” she said. “I always try to be positive. Even in situations when we got moved up to Div. I, I tried to push my girls. Every team gets down when they get moved to a higher level and have no chance. As long as you keep pushing your team to instill in them they can do it, that they can be at that top level, that’s a positive thing to have. That’s the number one thing she saw was I was so positive inside and outside of the water. That was the thing that stood out to coaches. I’m a bulldog. You can see that in my play. I don’t let anyone outplay me or outwork me. I’m going to show my skill and technique will outplay you.”
Hansen is part of a Madera Fantastic Foursome of aquatics athletes that will play at the next level. Her, along with Lola Gill (Salem University) and Emily Ibarra-Lopez (Fresno Pacific) are playing water polo and Tara Goertzen (Idaho) is swimming. The foursome won two Div. II swimming Central Section championships and two County/Metro Athletic Conference water polo titles.
“It’s so amazing,” Hansen said. “I’m so happy for Lola, Emily and Tara. Tara is such an amazing swimmer. To have the opportunity to have a great team to get to be put up to that high level is such an honor. (Head coach Eric) Baymiller has to be proud of each and every one of us that his girls are able to play at the next level. There are millions of girls that play water polo. It’s very rare to see high schools have a girls water polo team. For us to have the opportunity to go play at the next level is such a great step. It’s a great step in Madera’s aquatics community to push them even more to know there are girls that can do it and get scholarships for this sport.”
Hansen will major in ag business at Fresno State and wants to follow in her family’s footsteps.
“I’ve grown up with a lot men in my family that are in ag,” Hansen said. “I think it’s always been a part of me and I really wanted to do something I grew up around. I want to push myself to do that because you don’t see a lot of women In ag business and I want to show I can stand out in that field.”
However, being close to home to represent the Valley where she grew up, in addition to the family’s tradition at Fresno State and having family being able to watch her play were big reasons Hansen chose to be a Bulldog.
“I talk to my dad every single day and tell him this was a dream come true,” she said. “This doesn’t happen very often. Fresno State has such an amazing program, which is so awesome. They are only a third year school and finished 10th in the nation. I look a that school and I know I’m not just going somewhere that I know I’m going to push myself, I’m going somewhere where they’re going to win. That school is going to win a National championship. They are such a great group of girls and are family. I’m so happy to say I’m going to be a Bulldog and that Natalie gave me the opportunity to really show that I have Valley pride and be a Bulldog.”