That’s the type of eye-opening season the Greenwich High School girls water polo team produced this spring. Showcasing their skills at each position in all areas of the pool, the Cardinals rolled to a record of 11-0, including three victories during a two-day span to conclude their season last week.
“Going undefeated it’s pretty amazing, because we have been trying to achieve this for five years now and it finally happened,” said Greenwich coach Paul Constantin, who has guided the team since 2016. “It’s been a work in progress and it’s pretty satisfying to see that we achieved it.”
During the course of its undefeated season, Greenwich defeated foes such as Greenwich Aquatics, Greenwich Academy, Sacred Heart Greenwich and the Naval Academy’s squad. The Cardinals played Greenwich Academy, Sacred Heart Greenwich and Greenwich Aquatics more than one time in their 2021 campaign.
“We had another great season, now we have to maintain it,” Constantin said. “It’s hard to stay on top, so we have to keep working. What impressed me so much about this team is the chemistry they showed and how they always managed to come back. At the end, we always managed to pull through.”
In one of their final games of the season last Friday, the Cardinals posted an 18-12 win over visiting Naval Academy. Junior Bella Schraa, the team’s leading scorer, tallied a team-high seven goals against Navy, while sophomore Ashley Hopper recorded a hat trick and her twin sister Olivia Hopper had two goals. Cecile Whittle and Sofia Wang also scored twice, while junior Emma Phillips and Ellen Norell added one goal apiece in the victory. In their second game against Navy last weekend, Schraa’s hat trick paced Greenwich’s 10-7 triumph.
Phillps and Schraa were each junior captains of the Cardinals’ squad.
“Being a captain is a great honor and I’m really glad my teammates trusted me like that and chose me to lead them to success,” Schraa said. “Now that we’re undefeated it feels really good. Me and Emma have both led our club teams for some time and it feels good we can help do this for our team.”
Schraa was especially impressed with the determination and teamwork the squad showed throughout the season.
“We work really well together I’ve noticed,” Schraa said. “Especially the last week, everyone was really tired. But I think a lot of our players did a great job stepping up, especially a lot of our younger players. We are so grateful that people can step up and pull through.”
Twins Anneliese and Charlotte Ashley were the team’s seniors, so the Cardinals will return most of their players, a number of whom are underclassmen, next spring.
“Hopefully, we are going to be undefeated again,” said Schraa, who is a member of USA Water Polo’s Academy team and will spend time in California over the summer training with the team. “We have some of the best players in the Northeast and the nation. It’s a good opportunity to play with athletes like that and we are looking forward to having another great season next year.”
As a defender, Phillips helped support goalie CJ Weigel, who turned in a strong season for the Cards. She too, embraced her role as captain.
“It was incredible, I enjoyed every second of it,” Phillips said. ” I really loved how welcoming our team is and how they were dedicated and showed up to practice to work hard.”
Phillips knows the team will be primed to have another standout season next spring.
“We have a lot of talent coming back,” Phillips said. “We are keeping some of that momentum and team chemistry that we’ve worked so hard on forming. And we have some new freshman players coming in, so I’m feeling really positive about next year. If we go into the season with the same goals and same intentions there is no doubt we’ll be successful.”
Anneliese Ashley knows her senior season couldn’t have ended better.
“Because we didn’t have a season last year, it was super nice having an undefeated season,” Anneliese Ashley said. “The girls put in so much hard work and it definitely showed up in the type of season that we had.”
Indeed, she is leaving the GHS water polo program with fond memories.
“I think how much effort the juniors always put in for the seniors on Senior Day,” Anneliese Ashley said. “Also just coming to practice and having fun, makes more memories and brings us together as a team.”
The Ashley sisters will attend college together at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
“Being on the team will my sister has been a lot of fun,” Anneliese said. “She will make you laugh all the time. We have always done everything together.”
Charlotte Ashley looked forward to attending practice each day and was grateful for the opportunity to have a spring season.
“Practices were fun, because it was nice to come back and finish off the season with the girls,” Charlotte Ashley said. “We definitely had a lot of games and it was nice to have an undefeated senior season, so finishing it off my senior year this way was a highlight.”
Charlotte Ashley continued: “My four years on the team, each year has been very different. My most memorable years are this year and my sophomore year, because of the different relationships I was able to form with different girls on this team and different age groups.”
While the team was undefeated this year, Constantin knows the future is bright as well for the Cards.
“We will have a lot of players coming back,” he said. “We’re going to have a pretty decent amount of seniors next year, a lot of incoming freshmen and sophomores. But we will see, but hopefully, our numbers will continue to grow. Although we didn’t have a season last year, I would like to thank last year’s team, because previously, they had three years on board with us and throughout the pandemic they worked with the team.”
Schraa was glad to see the team win all of its games with Constantin at the helm.
“It’s his first undefeated season and I have played water polo for Paul since I was really young, so it feels good that our team was able to do this for him,” Schraa said. “I first started playing water polo at Chelsea Piers when I was 10 and he coached at Chelsea Piers then, so he has helped me a lot and has given me a lot of water polo opportunities.”