From its opening competition at the Naval Academy this weekend, to next week’s matchup against Brunswick School, to a trip out to California next month, numerous challenges indeed, await, the Greenwich High School boys water polo team.
And the Cardinals are looking forward to each one.
With the emergence of Brunswick as an elite squad and Chelsea Piers Connecticut and Greenwich Aquatics possessing strong teams, the Cardinals will receive stiff competition in town, besides traveling out west next month and down south this weekend.
“As recently as five years ago, our only local competition was some prep schools in the state,” GHS coach James Ramaley said. “Now Brunswick, which is our main rival that got the best of us, is on our schedule, along with along with Chelsea Piers and Greenwich Aquatics. There is a lot more local competition.”
Greenwich is coming off a season that saw it post a record of 22-8, with four of the losses coming against Brunswick and Chelsea Piers — the Cardinals lost to each squad twice.
Ramaley believes depth is an asset that could spark the squad.
“We have seven seniors, eight juniors and six sophomores, who all saw playing time last year,” he said. “Last year, we were 10-deep, this year, we can go 15-deep, which adds a competitive layer to our team. They have to compete against each other to get playing time, which makes practices more intense.”
The Cardinals are captained by seniors Niki de la Sierra, Tegan D’Agostino and Kyle Laufenberg. A clutch scorer last season, De la Sierra will be relied upon to help the lead the team’s counter attack.
“Offensively, we have a lot of strong players,” de la Sierra said. “Our shooting is strong and we have counter attackers, who can definitely get up and down the pool. I feel like we’re going to be a really great team this year.”
Laufenberg hopes to build upon the solid season he had in goal in 2017.
“I’m starting my second year as the starting goalie and I’m looking forward to seeing our team have a great year,” Laufenberg said. “We are a fast team and when we are feeling it and clicking, we are pretty unstoppable.”
The Cardinals went 0-2 against Brunswick during their 2017 campaign and according to Ramaley, may face the Bruins as many as four times this fall. The Bruins and Cardinals’ first meeting is Sept. 14 at Brunswick at 5 p.m.
“I love the in-town competition,” Laufenberg said. “Our rivalry with Brunswick is heating up, they have phenomenal players. It’s going to be a really good game.”
Greenwich plays four games this weekend at the Battle of the Beltways competition.
“We have to have that drive to beat teams, not just be satisfied to keep it close,” said D’Agostino, a center, who should also ignite the Cards offensively. “We have to hustle and close teams out.”
D’Agostino is also looking forward to playing Brunswick, Chelsea Piers and Greenwich Aquatics.
“I compete with a lot of those players during travel season, so it’s fun to go up against people you know,” D’Agostino said. “It makes you want it more.”
Juniors John Caruso, Charles Clark, Thomas Hoffmeister and Spencer Plavoukos should be forces in the pool, along with sophomore Manuel Pemberthy — a transfer from Norwalk.
“Charlie and Spencer can put away shots and Manuel is a key component to our starting lineup,” de la Sierra said.
The Cardinals lost to Chelsea Piers in the title game of their own Cardinal Invitational in 2017, ending their 15-year run as champions.
“Going undefeated against our local opponents and winning our Cardinal Tournament, which has Brunswick, Chelsea Piers in it, are among some of our goals,” Ramaley said.
Next month, Greenwich will embark on a trip to Orange County, Calif., to compete in a 32-team tournament, providing it a tough water polo test.
“That’s where the hot-bed of water polo is, it’s our first time going out there,” Ramaley said. “A 32-team tournament is pretty big, so we’re really looking forward to it.”