POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – Director of Athletics Tim Murray has announced the hiring of Natalie Benson as the head coach of the Marist water polo team. Benson, regarded as one of the best women’s water polo players of all time, has achieved incredible success as both a player and a coach at the collegiate and international levels.
The Natalie Benson Bio
2004: Athens - Bronze
2008: Beijing - Silver
|UCLA (undergraduate assistant)
2006: National Champion
Huntington Beach Water Polo
“I am very excited to begin my career as coach of the Marist Red Foxes,” Benson said. “I look forward to working with the team and building upon past success. The team will continue to have the Marist standard of academic success, and we will build the water polo program to set high standards athletically and competitively. My family and I are looking forward to being a part of the Marist community. I would like to thank our Athletic Director, Tim Murray and our President, Dr. Dennis Murray for the opportunity.”
Known as Natalie Golda in her playing days, Benson enjoyed a terrific playing career at UCLA, where she won three NCAA National Championships. She scored 158 career goals as a Bruin and was a three-time American Water Polo Coaches Association (AWPCA) All-American including being named the 2005 recipient of the Cutino Award, given to the AWPCA National Player of the Year. She was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2005 NCAA Women’s Water Polo Championships
Benson also has two Olympic medals to her name as she was a member of the U.S. water polo team that won a bronze medal in 2004 in Athens and a silver medal in Beijing in 2008. She scored 11 goals combined in the two Olympics, including nine in the Beijing Games where she scored four goals against China and three goals against Russia. Benson also competed in three World Championships for the Red, White and Blue, winning gold medals in Barcelona in 2003 and Melbourne in 2007 while also taking home silver in 2005 in Montreal.
Adam Krikorian, the current head coach of the USA Water Polo Women's Senior National Team, was the head coach at UCLA when Benson was a Bruin.
"Natalie is one the best young coaches in our country,” Krikorian said. “Her work ethic, intelligence, enthusiasm, and ability to communicate are just some of the characteristics that make her an excellent teacher and a true leader. Over the 13 years I have known Natalie, I have always had tremendous respect for her unique combination of fierce competitiveness and ability to stay true to the strong values she lives by. I wish her, Eric, Elise, and baby Claire all the best at Marist."
Benson, along with her 2004 Olympic teammates Nicolle Payne and Heather Moody, were inducted into the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) Hall of Fame in 2007. They became the first female inductees into the NYAC Hall of Fame, which at the time had 121 members since its first induction in 1981.
Her coaching career began back in 2006 after she had completed her playing eligibility at UCLA. She served as an undergraduate assistant coach for Krikorian, helping lead the Bruins to another national championship. After completing her international playing career in 2008, Benson began coaching with the prestigious Huntington Beach Water Polo Club out of Huntington Beach, Calif. She led the 18-and-under girl’s teams to a gold medal at the 2011 Junior Olympics and a silver medal in 2012 and 2013. In 2011, Benson was awarded the Doc Hunkler Distinguished Coaching Award, presented annually to the top scholastic coach in the nation. Benson served as the head coach of the 2013 USA Water Polo’s Women’s Cadet National Team and most recently led the U.S. team to a gold medal at the UANA Pan American Youth Water Polo Championships (17U) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“I am thrilled to have someone with Natalie’s experience and international exposure become a part of the Marist Athletics program,” Murray said. “Her background with USA Water Polo, two Olympics and multiple World Championships will clearly be an asset for her as she begins her college coaching career. I welcome Natalie and her family to the Hudson River Valley.”
Benson will take over a Marist squad that enjoyed a strong 2013 campaign, finishing the season with an overall record of 25-12. The Red Foxes won a share of the MAAC Regular Season Championship with a 10-2 conference record. They entered the MAAC Championships as the third seed, falling to eventual champion Iona 12-9 in the semifinals.