Brunswick School

Brunswick water polo team excelled at Santa Barbara Invitational in California

Photo courtesy of Brunswick School water polo team: Brunswick won four games at the competitive Santa Barbara Invitational.

Recently, the Brunswick School varsity water polo team competed in the ultra-competitive Santa Barbara Invitational in Santa Barbara, Calif., and it certainly excelled, winning four of the six games they played in against top-level, West Coast opponents.

The Bruins, who spent last week in Southern California, showcased their skills against their West Coast foes at the Santa Barbara High School outdoor pool. They went up against California high school water polo powerhouses Santa Barbara, Dos Pueblos, Dana Hills, JSerra, San Ramon Valley, Mater Dei, and Laguna Beach.

“I think it was an amazing for us,” Brunswick head coach Ulmis Iordache said. “This was the first time we got invited to the tournament. All of the teams in the tournament were Division I type of teams, a mix between private and public schools.”

Brunswick, which was the only East Coast team that played in the prestigious tournament, warmed up with two games before the main event – the Santa Barbara Invitational. Their first game was against Santa Barbara High School Dons. An even match for the first three quarters, the score was tied at 7-7 going into the fourth quarter. The Bruins were able to finish the game strong and register a 12-8 win. The Dons were certainly a challenge and a firm awakening for the challenges the Bruins would face the remainder of the week.

Photo courtesy of Brunswick water polo team: The Bruins made a strong showing at the Santa Barbara Invitational last week.

Brunswick’s next game before the Santa Barbara Invitational was against Dos Pueblos. It was here the Bruins found their groove and prevailed in the scrimmage with strong defense and selective shooting, on their way to a convincing 17-3 victory.

With two matches under their belt, and ample team bonding in their down time that included team dinners to the and sports such as beach volleyball, soccer, and touch football on the beautiful beaches of Santa Barbara, the Bruins were primed for the Santa Barbara Invitational.

Their first game of the Santa Barbara Invitational was against Dana Hills. With scoring led by lefties JP Ohl, a senior captain (five goals) and freshmen Adam Blum (four goals), the game showcased the Bruins ability for speedy counters and smart play. They went on to double-up Dana Hills, 20-10.

While the California teams consistently put the Bruins to the test, one of the biggest challenges of the week was about to enter the pool, JSerra – a traditionally top five high school water polo team in the country. Their imposing physical presence was reflected by the score at the end of the first half, as they held a 7-3 lead on the Bruins. However, the Bruins rallied in the second half against their West Coast foe. With key plays and scoring from the Ohl brothers, JP and Ryan Ohl (they scored four goals apiece), the Bruins tied at 7-7 at the end of third period.

Ryan Miele, a junior, was strong in goal, tallying seven saves. With starters, Luke Apostolides, a senior, JP Ohl, senior Ivey Gehring, Aidan Marks (senior), junior Vilas Sogaard-Srikrishann and sophomore Ryan Ohl  playing well, the Bruins showed their resilience, finishing the game with a 10-8 win.

“I’m impressed with our boys, especially the older guys with how they stepped up,” Iordache said. “We were there for a week and did a good job of taking care of themselves and the younger players. Our seniors really stepped up and our junior goalie had a very good tournament.”

Photo courtesy of Brunswick water polo team: Brunswick showed its offensive and defensive skills at the Santa Barbara Invitational in California, last week.

After a well-fought battle with a talented JSerra squad, the Bruins won a solid game against San Ramon Valley, 12-7, a victory that qualified them for the tournament’s semifinals. However, their next match was against Mater Dei, another renowned and nationally ranked high school team. The Bruins held a second-quarter lead, but the first half closed with Mater Dei holding an 8-6 edge. Brunswick wound up dropping a 14-8 decision.

The final match of the SB Invitational for Brunswick was the third-place game against Laguna Beach. Scoring a last-second goal, Laguna tied the game at 12-12 to a create sudden death overtime matchup. Laguna then edged the Bruins for a 13-12 triumph.

“In the past three years, we went to a tournament in Cornado, California and we have been asking to get into this tournament, because we know it is very prestigious and we are very happy that we had an opportunity to play in it.”

The California odyssey was one for the books and rife with valuable experience for Brunswick.

 “It was a great experience for everyone on our team,” Apostolides said. “It isn’t often that we get the opportunity to play some of the best teams in the country like Mater Dei and J Serra, and really feel like we’re competing with them. I think the best part of the tournament was the way that everyone stepped up to fill their roles and we played as a team and that’s what got us so far.”

Photo courtesy of Brunswick water polo team: The Bruins compete against one of their West Coast foes in Santa Barbara.

Fellow Captain Aidan Marks, a senior, also summed up the trip well: “Every team in the Santa Barbara tournament had great individual talent, but no one compared to the chemistry that we have. We’ve got some great individuals, but it was even greater to see everyone fit into their roles so perfectly and really fall in love with it. We saw that at every level and it showed how eager our guys are to compete as a team.”

While the Santa Barbara Invitational may well have included some of the toughest competition of the Bruins’ 2021 season, they still have some strong and challenging teams to face on their remaining schedule, including matchups against neighborhood rivals Greenwich High School and Greenwich Aquatics.

On Saturday, Brunswick traveled to Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford for games against Deerfield Academy and Williston Northampton. The Bruins rolled to victories against both teams, defeating Deerfield, 13-0, then topping Williston Northampton, 14-4.

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