Greenwich High School’s girls water polo team had to win all three games of its annual Cardinal Tournament to record another undefeated season.
Defeating CT Premier, Williston Northampton School and Norco Water Polo, the Cardinals put the finishing touch on a perfect 9-0 season sparked by numerous highlights.
Greenwich posted a 16-9 win against Norco Water Polo from Pennsylvania to start the tournament, then added victories against Massachusetts-based Williston Northampton (a 15-10 win) and CT Premier (10-6 victory).
“It was a high intensity tournament, the level is pretty high, so we’re happy to have all these teams make it here on Mother’s Day,” said Greenwich coach Paul Constantin, who also guided the Cardinals to an undefeated season in 2021. “I want to thank the other coaches for making the effort.”
In their opening game of the tournament against CT Premier, the Cardinals were powered by senior co-captain Bella Schraa’s six-goal performance.
“I was really happy with it,” Schraa said of the team’s opening game of the tournament against Norco. “This season I haven’t been performing as I wanted to, but this game I really turned it on and I had six goals, so I was happy with my performance.”
The Cardinal Tournament marked the final day of Schraa’s distinguished water polo career at GHS. An All-American water polo athlete, she will soon continue her water polo career at Bucknell University. She served as captain of the team for two seasons with senior Emma Phillips.
“It’s so sad, I pour my heart for this team and so does Emma,” Schraa said. “I would do anything for any of these girls, so it’s sad to have this come to an end. But it’s good, because we’re moving forward. I’m going to play in college, Emma is going to college and studying. So, it’s bittersweet and I’m excited to see how they’re going to do in the coming years. I’m going to come back and watch them.”
Emma Gustafsson tallied four goals, while Olivia Hopper, Bronte Brock, Sophia Ojjeh, Ashley Hopper, CJ Weigel and Phillips scored one goal apiece in the Cards’ win over Norco. Weigel, who provided strong goaltending throughout the tournament and season, scored on a length of the pool shot.
“I am so proud of this team,” Phillips said. “Toward the end of the season, everyone is playing really well together and I’m proud of the work they have put in. There is a huge difference between our first game and this game and it’s really nice that we can end on such a high note.”
Phillips enjoyed her days as a Greenwich High water polo player, which created fond memories.
“The last four years have meant everything to me,” she said. “You grow up on this team. It’s such a community and a family that we’ve built here. The support and love that you find on this team, you can’t find anywhere else. It has shaped me into the person I am. I’ve loved every minute of it and I can’t say enough about Paul and the girls.”
In Greenwich’s triumph against Williston Northampton, Schraa lit the scoreboard for seven goals, Gustafsson scored four more goals and Ashley Hopper tallied twice. Ojjeh and Sophie Wang added one goal apiece for the victors.
“I think the season is a lot of fun, we had a lot of close games and our team has gotten really close this season, so that was a lot of fun too,” said Ashley Hopper, a sophomore. “It’s going to be a lot of fun next season too, because we will have to step up and we have some freshman that we will have to incorporate into our team bonding.”
The Hopper twins, Ashley and Olivia, were consistent throughout the season.
“It’s a lot of fun, because of chemistry,” Ashley said of being on the same team with Olivia. “Playing with your sister is a lot of fun.”
Olivia Hopper has especially enjoyed this season.
“It has been really great, it has been really fun,” Olivia said. “We weren’t able to do a lot of team bonding last year because of COVID, so this year it’s been really fun and I’ve made a lot of friends.”
“The captains are great,” Olivia continued. “They’ve made me learn a lot about teamwork and they helped me have a lot of fun on this team.”
Greenwich’s 10-6 victory over CT Premier in the Cardinal Tournament was highlighted by Schraa’s three goals and two goals apiece from Ashley Hopper and Gustafsson. Coco Whittle, Ellen Norell and Ojjeh each scored one goal in the winning effort.
“This is so nice, the Cardinal Tournament this year is a lot bigger than it usually is – I don’t think we’ve ever had this many spectators at the tournament,” Schraa said during Sunday’s tourney. We had teams from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, so it’s really nice to see them.”
Schraa is looking forward to beginning the next chapter of her academic and athletic career at Bucknell.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “I think I picked a really good school for myself, so I’m excited to be there and I think it will be good for me. It will be really good, high-level water polo that I’ve wanted to have for years. It will be nice to have that high intensity and mindset.”
Indeed, Schraa and Phillips provided great leadership to the team during their tenure as the squad’s captains.
“Bella is the most amazing person,” Phillips said. “She’s my best friend and being a captain with her was incredible, because we work so well together. We have the same goals, we’re motivated by the same things and we just want the best for the team. Working with her has made the last two years even better than I anticipated.”
Constantin was impressed by the work ethic and determination the team displayed each day.
“The team is very well organized,” he said. “They practice hard. The team attitude is the best it’s ever been. They are hard working in the water and outside the water and they don’t stop until they get what they want.”
Categories: Greenwich High, Spring sports
Leave a Reply