Greenwich Water Polo (GWP), one of the East Coast's top programs, recently sent five age-group teams to the 2011 USA Water Polo Junior Olympics, which were held in Orange County, Calif. The three boys teams -- 12-under, 14-under and 16-under -- and two girls teams -- 12-under and 14-under -- experienced significant success in the California-dominated tournament. The three GWP older teams even managed to play their way into the Platinum Division of the tourney, which is the upper half of the 48-team championship brackets.
The 14-under boys had the top GWP finish in the four-day event for the boys, which started July 30 and finished up on Aug. 2. Their 4-4 record landed them in 18th place in the Platinum group. After losing their opener to Huntington Beach, Calif., 12-9, they beat the team from Las Vegas, Nevada 12-9 and the Navy team from Annapolis, Md. 13-11.
Their 2-1 Day One record earned them Platinum status. Lefty Mack Neary led all Greenwich scorers with five goals against Vegas and six goals against Navy. Julian Fraser was the second-leading scorer with a total of five goals in the two games.
On Day Two, the GWP 14s split their two games, winning 11-9 against Pacific Polo from San Diego before losing to Chino Hills, Calif. 15-13. Fraser led the team with five goals in the win, followed by three from Nick Hyden. In his best game of the tournament, goalie Colin Barefoot pulled down 11 saves.
The team split two games again on Day Three -- they beat the hosting Orange County Water Polo Titans 11-10 before losing to 680 Drivers team from northern Calif., 13-10. Ben Wurst's third goal of the game broke a 10-10 tie for the victory over Orange County. Fraser also had a hat trick, and Neary led with four goals.
Their Day Four final game, a re-match with Chino Hills, proved to be a disappointing 17-7 loss.
The GWP 16s had a similar first-day experience, winning twice and losing once to earn a spot in the Platinum group. Their first win was a shootout victory over the Orange County team. It took late period heroics by Robert Peterson and Jack Robinson to come back from a two-goal deficit to end the game at 8-8 after regulation. In the shootout, goalie Simon Tebbe, who had eight game saves, added four straight against Orange County five-meter shooters. Matt Fraser and Will Klingner fired bullets to win the shootout 2-0. After losing to the Clovis, Calif. Bears 12-9, they came back to beat the team from Rockford, Ill. 10-8. In the win, James Baker led the way with four goals, followed by three from Tyler Triscari. Tebbe nabbed 9 saves.
On Day Two, the 16s lost a heartbreaker, this time losing in a shootout. They took a 4-2 lead late in the game against Las Vegas Henderson before allowing the Nevada team to rally and tie the game. They lost the shootout 4-2. A victory would have moved the GWP team into the top 12. In their next game, the team rallied to defeat the Clovis Cougars in another tight battle, 6-5. Peterson and Sean Lyons each had three of the six GWP goals.
The Greenwich 16s also split their two Day Three games. Their first game was a 9-7 win over the team from Foothills, Calif. Klingner, Lyons and Peterson each fired a pair of goals; Fraser, Baker and Max Zim had one apiece. After leading 5-2 early in their next game, Greenwich scored only two more times, while the team from Huntington Beach tallied eight in their 10-7 win.
In their Day Four finale, a re-match with Orange County, Greenwich lost 9-8, again letting a 5-2 lead slip away. Also finishing with a 4-4 record, the GWP 16s landed in 20th place.
An inexperienced 12-under boys team had a much more difficult time in the tournament -- but ended on a high note. After losing their first eight games, the GWP 12s defeated San Diego Shores B team 13-6. Matt Ambrose's 16 saves were a key to the victory. Cameron Liflander led with four goals, followed by Jamie Cassidy with three, Owen Byrnes with two and one each from Kevin Downey, Kevin Grune, John Steele and Andrew Triscari. Triscari was the overall scoring leader for the team, with 17 goals in their nine games.
The girls Junior Olympics competition took place from Aug. 4 to 7. The 14-under girls compiled the best GWP record in the Junior Olympics, finishing with five wins and three losses.
On Day One, they started off with a surprisingly easy 11-1 victory over a team from Stanford, Calif. Nearly everyone got in on the scoring act. Sydney Baker and Natalie Grune each scored twice, and another seven players each had a goal. Next they ran into the top seeded 14-under team from Commerce, Calif., and lost by a wide margin 19-4. They came back to win 13-2 against Bakersfield, Calif. with Porter Carlson's five goals leading the way. Claire Baxter, Paige Neary and Grune each scored twice. Hallie Garfield had seven goalie saves.
The first day of Platinum Division play for the GWP 14 girls proved to be a tough one. They lost 12-6 to Foothills, Calif. and 12-9 to Ventura County Premier.
They came back strong on Day Three, however, with two wins. After opening a 7-1 halftime lead over Elite Water Polo from Murrieta Calif., they held on to win 8-6. Two goals each by Rachel Sodokoff and Neary along with single tallies by Baker, Hollis Jomo and Avery Pierce provided the six-goal halftime cushion. Neary's third goal in the fourth was the game clincher.
In their second game of the day, the GWP girls slowly pulled away from the Los Angeles Water Polo Club en route to a 9-6 victory. They led 3-2 after one period, 6-4 at the half. Neary had four of the Greenwich goals, two of which came on penalty shots earned by teammates. Sodokoff and Baxter had the other two first-half goals. Carlson scored in both the third and fourth periods, each time putting her team back up by two. Neary's fifth goal provided a safe 9-6 lead.
This put the Greenwich 14-under girls up against the team from Northwood, Calif. for their Day Four finale.
It proved to be their most exciting game of the tournament. Leading 3-2 after the first period, they were shut out in the second and trailed by two, 5-3 at the half. Sodokoff, Baxter and Neary had the first-half goals. A pair of third period goals by Neary, and one by Jomo, made it a one-goal game, 7-6. Three unanswered goals by three different GWP girls rallied the team into a two-goal, 9-7 lead. Carlson tied the game, Grune gave Greenwich the lead and Jomo extended the lead to two. The game ended with Greenwich on top 9-8. Because of their two losses on Day Two, their highest possible place was 21st in the Platinum Division -- which their three consecutive victories accomplished.
The GWP 12-under girls suffered the same result as their male counterparts, winning only one of their tournament games. Their victory came against the North San Diego Stars. The first period ended in a 2-2 tie on two goals by Kate Murray. Four second-quarter goals by Borden Wahl and one by Kellen Carlson, along with shutout defense led by Lizzy Bradley's three saves put Greenwich safely ahead, 7-2. Wahl, Carlson and Ella Jomo each had second half goals in the 10-4 win.
"Overall, this was an exceptional showing by an east coast team," said GWP head coach Terry Lowe. "We are very proud to have three teams performing so well in the elite Platinum Divisions and beating so many California teams. Our coaches -- Paul Ramaley, Jimmy Ramaley, Mike Capossela, Steve Ambrose and Matthew DiNatale for the boys, and Brian Kelly and Julie Ramaley for the girls -- all did a super job preparing our teams for the tournament."