Greenwich Water Polo (GWP) made a big splash at the Northeast Zone (NEZ) Junior Olympic Qualifier, which was held recently at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. GWP qualified all four of its boys teams, earning them a trip out west for the Junior Olympic tournament, which will be held in Northern California the last weekend of July.
The GWP 16/Unders won both of their qualifier games to earn top spot in the NEZ for their age group. Tied 4-4 against the Princeton Tigers midway through the second quarter, GWP broke the game open with eight unanswered goals. With a commanding 12-4 lead, they went on to win 16-9 over the New Jersey squad. Eight Greenwich players scored. Julian Fraser led the way with five goals, with Tyler Triscari and Jack Robinson coming up with hat tricks.
The GWP 16s played the decisive game for the top spot against cross-town rival Greenwich Aquatics of the YMCA. Trailing by as many as three goals in the second period, the GWP players fought back to a 6-6 tie before halftime.
In a seesaw second half, the game was tied four more times before Fraser and Triscari scored the final two goals in a 15-13 victory. The same trio led the GWP scoring: Triscari with 5 goals, Fraser with 4 and Robinson with 3.
The 18/Under boys team also earned the top spot in their age group in the NEZ winning two hard-fought games. In their opener against a combined Pittsburgh/Greenwich Aquatics team, they were behind 7-5 midway through the third before James Baker scored twice to send the teams into the final quarter tied 7-7. Two more goals from Baker, along with one from Matt Fraser, put Greenwich up by three 10-7, and the game finished with GWP on top 10-8.
In the deciding game for the top-qualifying position, against Princeton, Steve Grune broke a 4-4 tie in the second period and his team was in the lead for the remainder of the game, winning by three, 10-7. Matt Fraser and Grune were the top scorers, each with three goals; Henry McMillan added a pair, and Will Klingner and Sean Lyons notched a goal each.
After losing to both Greenwich Aquatics and the YPRO club from New York City, the GWP 14/under boys earned the final NEZ berth at the Junior Olympics with an exciting 19-18 win over the Princeton Tigers. Tied 18-18 in the final minute of the game, GWP earned a man-up possession, and Jack Capossela scored the winning goal on a perimeter shot outside five meters.
With seven goals, Capossela was the leading scorer for GWP. Brad Paradise tallied four goals, and Joseph Peters added two. In goal, Matthew Ambrose made several critical saves in one-on-none situations to keep his team in the game.
The 12/Under GWP boys coasted to a 20-10 victory over Pittsburgh to earn the second Zone-qualifying position. Led by high-scorer Kevin Grune they jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead before the Pennsylvania team got on the board. Grune ended up with five goals, while John Steele and Christian Farricker backed him up with four each -- and every GWP field player had at least one goal.
Battling the team from the Greenwich YM, the GWP boys forged a 3-3 tie for the first period. But the closest they came to the YM team in the third period was 10-7, eventually losing 17-9 in the game to determine the top qualifier from the Northeast. Grune and Steele each had three goals.
In related action on the Friday night before the multi-team qualifying tournament in Annapolis, the only two girls 14/Under teams vying for spots in the Junior Olympics met at the Greenwich YMCA to determine the order the two qualifiers would be placed in the California event.
Despite five goals by GWP's national youth qualifier Rachel Sodokoff, the Greenwich Aquatics team prevailed 17-9. Sodokoff, along with Sophie Bardos, also drew several kick-outs, while Sarah Bellamy did a solid job defending the Aquatics team's two-meter offensive players. The girls Junior Olympic competition will also will take place in northern California, immediately following the boys tournament.
GWP's success comes despite not having a home pool in which to train all of its young athletes. In July, the entire GWP program will be moving to the 50-meter Olympic size pool in the new Chelsea Piers Connecticut in Stamford. With its new home, Greenwich Water Polo will be enlarging its program.
To learn more about the club go to www.greenwichwaterpolo.org.