Needing just several more victories to achieve an undefeated season, the Greenwich High School water polo team was tested by a rapidly improving Sacred Heart Greenwich squad on Friday.
But finishing the game strong helped the Cardinals pass yet another test.
Tied late in the third quarter and ahead by only one goal going into the fourth quarter, Greenwich used a pivotal surge to pull away to an 18-12 triumph against visiting Sacred Heart Greenwich.
Celebrating its Senior Day, the Cardinals upped their record to 6-0 with the victory. Junior Bella Schraa led all scorers, tallying six goals for Greenwich, which entered the fourth quarter with an 11-10 lead.
“Individually, this was not our strongest game,” said Schraa, a co-captain who scored seven goals in Greenwich’s previous win against Sacred Heart. “But we had a good fourth quarter. The fourth quarter, the intensity went up. Us being up only one goal the last quarter was a little scary, so we brought the intensity up a little and were able to score five or six goals.”
Sofie Wang scored four goals, while Ashley Hopper and Emma Phillips each tallied twice in the winning effort. Senior Isabella Lippolis and Isabella Adams each notched five goals to pace the Tigers (3-4).
“It is one of the best games that we played this year,” said Lippolis, a co-captain. “We played GHS about a week-and-a-half ago and to come back here today and to see our improvement was really great. The first game we played them they were way ahead of us in the third quarter. To see our improvement in a week-and-a-half is something we are proud of.”
Greenwich’s two seniors Anneliese Ashley and Charlotte Ashley, who are twin sisters, were paid tribute to by their teammate on Senior Day.
“Last year was odd how we didn’t have a season, but Emma (Phillips) and Bella (Schraa) have really made up for it this year,” Anneliese Ashley said. “They’ve done such a great job and they have been super supportive. Being a part of a team where we all get along really well and are all really supportive of each other is important. It’s helped us be the best team we can be. It’s nice having an undefeated senor year, especially after not having a season last year.”
Sacred Heart received a hat trick from Rory Keller and 12 saves from goalie Claire Pittaro.
“This is one of the best games we played so far, especially since Greenwich is such a strong team,” Sacred Heart coach Gabriel Maldonado said. “I am so proud of them.”
Leading 9-6 at halftime, Greenwich found itself in a 9-9 deadlock, after Isabella Adams scored two straight goals and Lippolis tallied. Ellen Norell’s goal gave the Cards a 10-9 edge, before Lippolis again tied it at 10-10. Schraa gave the Cardinals the lead for good when she converted a shot with 27 seconds remaining in the third quarter, making it 11-10.
Oliva Hopper, Ashley Hopper, three goals by Wang and a tally by Schraa increased Greenwich’s advantage to 17-11.
“I think we realized at the beginning of the fourth quarter that we weren’t playing our best, so once we figured out how to step up our defense and all work together on offense, which definitely helped,” Charlotte Ashley said.
Said Greenwich coach Paul Constantin: “It was tough, we started off pretty strong. Then they tied us up and we had to fight back and get a lead again. It was a good team effort.”
CJ Weigel was solid in goal for the Cardinals, making 12 saves. Greenwich plays two matches against Staples, then may host its own Cardinal Tournament. Sacred Heart still has games against Staples, Greenwich Academy, Hopkins School and Greenwich Academy.
“It’s been really fun, I’ve been on this team for four years and this is the only time I really get to play water polo,” Sacred Heart senior co-captain Karina Adams said. We have a lot better team dynamic now. A lot of the girls are getting used to the team sport dynamic. We’re getting a lot more cohesive, listening to each other and getting the plays down.”
Anneliese Ashley had a goal, as did Norell, Olivia Hopper and Michelle Alfaro for Greenwich, which had an enjoyable Senior Day.
“Our seniors have such a permanent role on our teams,” said Phillips, a junior co-captain. “It was amazing celebrating them and I hope they felt special, because that was the goal. The energy is so high and we have have so much fun on this team.”