Two of the premier high school water polo teams in the region squared off in the championship game of Saturday night’s Cardinal Tournament and yes, the squads dueling for the title were Brunswick School and Greenwich.
Like last season, the Cardinals and Bruins each advanced to the championship game of the competitive 12-team tournament and like last year, it was Brunswick that garnered the title.
Four goals from senior co-captain Kyle Yelensky powered Brunswick to a 10-7 victory over Greenwich in the title game of the 45th Cardinal Tournament before a packed house at Greenwich High School.
The triumph marked the second straight year the Bruins beat the Cardinals in the tournament final. Brunswick also defeated Greenwich in the championship game of the Beast of the East Tournament in Reading, Pa., last month and was victorious against GHS in the 2018 Beast of the East tourney.
Brunswick went 4-0 in the 2019 Cardinal Tournament, raising its record to 17-1 in the process. Greenwich finished 3-1 in its own tournament and is 15-2 on the season, it’s only two losses coming against the Bruins.
“It’s always an honor playing Greenwich High School at their tournament,” Bruins senior co-captain Jake Charney said. “I remember this in this tournament my freshman and sophomore year, so it’s awesome to see the growth we’ve had over my four years. Getting third or fourth place my first two years to winning it is awesome.”
Sophomore Gavin West, junior Gavin Molloy and sophomore JP Ohl each registered two goals for the Bruins, who led the Cardinals 5-3 at halftime.
Greenwich received two goals apiece from Manuel Pembertty, Filip Norell and Thomas Hoffmeister. The Cardinals rallied to take a 6-5 lead at the 4:35 mark of the third quarter on a goal from Pembertty.
“I’m really proud of the comeback we made to get it to 6-5,” GHS coach Jimmy Ramaley said. “We were down 5-3 and we proved we could score on them. Brunswick does a good job of weathering the storm and they were able to put a run on at the end that we didn’t match. They were getting ejections and steals.”
Trailing 6-5 in the championship match, the Bruins tied the score when Yelensky tallied with 3:37 remaining in the third quarter. Molloy followed with a goal, giving Brunswick the lead for good at 7-6 with 2:27 to go in the third frame.
Moving the ball effectively, the Bruins widened their advantage on Ohl’s tally with 1:22 to play in the third quarter. West capped the visitors’ third-quarter scoring by tallying with 34 seconds left.
“We play as a team, we all have faith in each other whenever the game gets hard,” Yelensky said. “We all keep going. I love games like this. The louder they are it gets me amped up and the rest of the team feels the same way.”
West added a fourth-quarter goal, while JT Ruiz tallied in the final quarter for Greenwich.
“It was a great game overall, but they ended up getting the win,” said GHS senior tri-captain Thomas Hoffmeister said. “Our team played fantastic all of our games. This game epitomized how our team is and how we play well together.”
Junior Hayden Collins made nine saves in goal in the finals for Brunswick.
“Our goalie had important saves in tough moments,” Bruins coach Ulmis Iordache said. “Our kids played together as a unit. Defense was the strength of our game. This was a good experience for our team.”
Added Charney: “We made some in-game adjustments against Greenwich that were really key. As soon as we did that, the momentum switched, we went on a 5-2 run to close it out.”
Senior Eric Ducret was the Cardinals’ goalie.
“This was Eric Ducret’s first championship game at this tournament and for him to allow just 10 goals was awesome,” Ramaley said. “He did a great job throughout the tournament.”
Said Ducret: “I think we did really well. It didn’t end up how we wanted to, unfortunately, we didn’t finish it out. We just have to keep our energy going from the beginning to close it out.”
In the semifinals, Brunswick posted a 13-6 win against Greenwich Aquatics. Yelensky had four goals, West and Molloy tallied twice and Luke Apostolides, Ivey Gehring and Vilas Sogaard-Srikishnan each had one goal. Collins turned away 11 shots in goal.
The Bruins coasted past Loomis Chaffee School in their second game at the Cardinal Tournament, 18-2. Apostolides, Yelensky and Ohl each recorded hat tricks, while Gehring, Danny Taylor and Molloy chipped in two goals apiece.
In the opening game of the tournament, Yelensky paced the Bruins to a 17-2 win against Staples, notching five goals. Ohl had a hat trick, while Patrick Mullen West and Molloy each added two goals.
“We play Greenwich again at home in two weeks (Oct. 25), so we are going to get back in the pool and start grinding,” Yelensky said.
Said Iordache: “I like how Greenwich’s seniors played. They played well as a team and just always find a way to score goals. They are very creative.”
Greenwich beat Brunswick’s B team in the first round of the tournament, 19-6, then posted a 16-5 win over Phillips Exeter Academy in the second round. The Cardinals topped Navy Aquatic Club in the semifinals, 21-8, to advance to the finals.