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Greenwich Academy water polo team edges Greenwich

April 5, 2017 GMT

GREENWICH — Greenwich Academy’s inaugural season as a varsity water polo team last spring ended in fantastic fashion, as it won the Liquid Four Tournament — which served as the New England championship.

Tuesday marked the beginning of the Gators’ second season as a squad and they certainly couldn’t have asked for a more satisfying start.

With Greenwich High School and Greenwich Academy each having their moments, Tuesday’s matchup illustrated how competitive girls water polo is in town. But a nine-goal second quarter, a seven-goal performance by Kayla Yelensky and a five-goal effort from Borden Wahl made the difference for GA.

Erasing an early deficit, Greenwich Academy pulled out a well-earned 13-12 win over Greenwich High in an exciting early-season showdown at the YMCA of Greenwich.

The win over the Cardinals was the first for the Gators, who were defeated by GHS twice last season.

“It’s great to have another team in town to play water polo against, we are fortunate to be able to play a great team like Greenwich,” GA coach Ulmis Iordache said. “This was a really good win for us to see where we are as a team. It’s the first time we’ve beaten them.”

The Cardinals (0-4-1) jumped out to a 4-1 lead and held a 4-1 edge after the first quarter. The Gators outscored the Cardinals 9-3 in the second quarter to seize an 11-7 halftime advantage. Greenwich closed to within 11-10 after three quarters of action, but Greenwich Academy held on to win its season-opener.

“We started the program three years ago as a club sport and this is our second year as a varsity sport,” said Wahl, a junior who also plays water polo for Greenwich Aquatics. “The fact that we can beat one of the best schools on the east coast is great.”

Greenwich received four goals apiece from freshmen Kaila Carroll and Charlotte Hallissey.

“The second quarter, I thought we were going to have it under control, but apparently, we didn’t have it under control,” GHS coach Paul Constantin said. “Our tactics didn’t work as they were supposed to. I hope this makes us more focused for our following games. We need to pay more attention to executing correctly. If we don’t this will be the end result.”

Greenwich Academy took the lead for good behind a pivotal spurt in the second quarter.

Gathering a long pass from Wahl, Yelensky snuck a shot from close in past Cardinals junior goalie Ainsleigh Winget, bring the Gators to within 4-3 with 5:28 remaining in the second quarter. Senior Quinn Scannell’s goal less than one-minute later tied the score at 4-4 and Yelensky converted a low shot from the perimeter at the 4:48 mark, putting the Gators ahead to stay, 5-4.

Goals from Wahl and Yelensky stretched GA’s advantage to 7-4, before Cardinals sophomore Kate Turkeltaub stopped the run with a goal with 3:14 to go in the second stanza.

Yelensky and Wahl each struck two more times during the second period for Greenwich Academy, which showed its accurate shooting touch.

“That’s our main strength, we have three really good shooters — Yelensky, Wahl and Scannell, and they shot well,” said Iordache, whose squad played with only nine players, due to the fact that several team members were away on a school outing.

Said Wahl: “Everyone set up the way we were supposed to, we made great passes and we didn’t make mistakes. It was tough not having a deep bench, but everyone put everything they had into it.”

Trailing 11-7, Greenwich rallied to cut GA’s lead to 11-10, behind two goals from Carroll and one from Hallisey. After a pair of goals from Wahl made it 13-10, junior Julia Merrill and senior Grace Leigh tallied, to bring the Cards to within 13-12. Yet GA held on, with sophomore goalie Lulu Meissner making a pair of key saves down the stretch.

“They had a little bit better energy than we did at the end,” Turkeltaub said. “We ran out of steam toward the end. This shows that we have to work harder in practice and that we have to continue to work on our communication.”

Greenwich hosts Staples on Thursday. Up next for GA is a road matchup against Hotchkiss School on April 12.

“I knew this was going to be a very tough and stressful game,” Yelensky said. “I just put all my effort into this game and we all really wanted to win against Greenwich. We all pushed each other to play better.”

dfierro@greenwichtime.com; 203-625-4423