Hawaii’s Gonzalez, UC Davis’ Wijnbelt Lead Big West Honorees

Courtesy: Big West Conference

Big West Tournament champion Hawai’i added to its outstanding season with a pair of major awards it was announced today.

The ‘Bows saw Irene Gonzalez claim the Player of the Year award, the second consecutive season that Gonzalez claimed the league’s top individual honor. UH’s other honor went to Maureen Cole who was named the Coach of the Year. UC Davis claimed the final award as Noelle Wijnbelt was named Freshman of the Year.

Gonzalez, a senior from Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, is the third player in league history to win the Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons. In addition she becomes the fifth player in league history to have won the Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year awards. Gonzalez has recorded 59 goals and 26 assists for 85 points in 2019, leading the Rainbow Wahine to the Big West Tournament title for the first time since 2015. She has scored in all but two matches this season and twice recorded a six-goal effort. One of those efforts came in the Big West Tournament semifinal against UC Davis, equaling the most goals scored in a tourney game in league history. Gonzalez is also making her way up the all-time charts as her 225 goals is four shy of tying former CSUN scorer Madeleine Sanchez for the most in Big West history.

Wijnbelt, a native of Tustin, is the second Aggie to win the Freshman of the Year award following Kaylee Miller who was a co-recipient of the inaugural award in 2009. She was UC Davis’ top goal scorer in her true freshman campaign, tallying 54 goals which led the team and ranked sixth in the Big West. Wijnbelt was a consistent player that scored in 20 straight contests, a streak that is tied for the second-most in Aggie history. She was also tough to handle during conference play as she recorded 11 goals, including a career-best five scores in the April 5 victory against Long Beach State. She also added four more scores against CSUN to wrap up the regular season and help the Aggies clinch the #3 seed in the Tournament. In all Wijnbelt recorded eight games of three or more goals and recorded a point in all but three games of her freshman season.

Cole led Hawai’i to its first Big West Tournament title and NCAA Tournament bid since 2015. The Rainbow Wahine are 18-5 heading into the NCAAs, with none of their losses coming by more than four goals. UH has scored 284 goals this year while conceding just 177, nearly a +5.0 goal-scoring differential. Cole has also led the club to three wins over MPSF teams this season as the ‘Bows have downed Arizona State twice and California. The team has also spent 13 straight weeks ranked in the top 5 of the Collegiate Water Polo Association poll, peaking at #4 in the week 11 edition of the rankings. This marks the third Coach of the Year honor for Cole, having previously won the award in 2013 and 2015.

The All-Conference teams are led by the selection of Gonzalez for the fourth time in as many years. It also features the return of UC Irvine’s Mary Brooks who earned first team honors in 2016 and 2017. Brooks’ teammate Tara Prentice is the only other first team returnee, making her the second of three 2019 first team members from UCI.

Big West Player of the Year: Irene Gonzalez, Hawai’i

Big West Freshman of the Year: Noelle Wijnbelt, UC Davis

Big West Coach of the Year: Maureen Cole, Hawai’i

All-Big West First Team
Player School Year Position Hometown
Orsi Hertzka Long Beach State Fr. Attacker Budapest, Hungary
Noelle Wijnbelt UC Davis Fr. Center Tustin, Calif.
^Mary Brooks UC Irvine Sr. Utility Fresno, Calif.
Morgan Jones UC Irvine So. Goalkeeper Murrieta, Calif.
*Tara Prentice UC Irvine Jr. Utility Temecula, Calif.
Kate Pipkin UC Santa Barbara Sr. Utility Costa Mesa, Calif.
&Irene Gonzalez Hawai’i Sr. Attacker Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Elyse Lemay-LaVoie Hawai’i Jr. Center Montreal, Quebec, Canada
*Two Time Big West first team selection
^ Three-Time Big West first team selection
&Four-Time Big West first team selection
All-Big West Second Team
Tori Wilson Cal State Northridge Jr. Utility Kitchener, Ontario
Annie Kutt UC Davis Sr. Utility Westlake Village, Calif.
Piper Smith UC Irvine Fr. Center Santa Barbara, Calif.
Sarah Kreiser UC Santa Barbara Sr. Attacker Santa Margarita, Calif.
Kenzi Snyder UC Santa Barbara Jr. Goalkeeper Santa Ana, Calif.
Sarah Snyder UC Santa Barbara Jr. Utility Fresno, Calif.
Femke Aan Hawai’i Sr. Utility Oostzaan, North Holland, Netherlands
All-Big West Honorable Mention
Jennalyn Bartheis Cal State Northridge Jr. Utility Sacramento, Calif.
Tori Morrissey Long Beach State Sr. Attacker Maroubra, New South Wales
Eirini Patras Long Beach State So. Goalkeeper Athens, Greece
Emily Byrne UC Davis Jr. Utility Orinda, Calif.
Chloe Robinson UC Davis Jr. Utility Temecula, Calif.
Kathleen Schafle UC Davis Jr. Attacker Napa, Calif.
Maxine Schaap Hawai’i Fr. Attacker Zaandam, North Holland, Netherlands
Emma Van Rossum Hawai’i Fr. Center Nieuwegein, Utrecht, Netherlands


All-Big West Freshman Team
Player School Position Hometown
Kylee Jansen Cal State Northridge Center Fresno, Calif.
Orsi Hertzka Long Beach State Attacker Budapest, Hungary
Noelle Wijnbelt UC Davis Center Tustin, Calif.
Piper Smith UC Irvine Center Santa Barbara, Calif.
Caitlyn Snyder UC Santa Barbara Utility Fresno, Calif.
Maxine Schaap Hawai’i Attacker Zaandam, North Holland, Netherlands
Emma Van Rossum Hawaii Center Nieuwegein, Utrecht, Netherlands


Leave a Reply

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments