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GHS girls water polo team out to continue its successful trend

March 22, 2017 GMT

Continued excellence — that’s what the Greenwich High School girls water polo team has produced each season since its inception in 2001.

And even though their schedule is challenging, the Cardinals are confident they can continue their impressive trend.

“Last season went pretty well, we won all the games we were supposed to win and the team did a really good job,” said Greenwich coach Paul Constantin, who guided the Cardinals to a record of 12-3 in his first season with the squad last spring. “We start off the season with some really tough games, but hopefully, we’ll do great. Last year’s girls have definitely shown progress and we have some talented newcomers.”

Greenwich’s season begins Friday with a trip to Wilson High School for a tournament in Reading Pa., where they will play three games (North Penn Aquatic Club, Kingfish, Excel water polo team).

“Even though it’s early in the season, we’re starting off with three games that will really help us get warmed up for the rest of the season,” said GHS senior tri-captain Ella Jomo, who helped pace the Cards offensively a year ago. “These games will help prepare us for the hard games we are going to play this season.”

Also bringing skill and leadership to the squad that’s mixed with upperclassmen and underclassmen, are senior captains Grace Leigh and Sammy Bear.

“Our captains, Ella, Grace, Sammy — they are the backbone of the team,” Constantin said. “They will help carry the team forward. I expect them to keep the team together through the positive vibes they bring in the water. Yesterday (Monday) in practice, they were really helpful to the girls who were trying out in terms of how to position themselves and what to do.”

The Cardinals’ only three losses last season came against rival Greenwich Aquatics. They went a perfect 12-0 against their other opponents. Though several key contributors graduated from last season’s successful squad, the Cardinals know they don’t have much time to find the right chemistry in the pool.

“Since there’s so many different players with different levels of talent on our team and it’s a short season, we have to work on playing together,” Leigh said. “We’ve never played the teams we’re playing Friday before. It’s a new tournament that we have never been in.”

After testing their skills in their first out-of-state trip in recent memory, Greenwich hosts Greenwich Aquatics on March 30.

“Hopefully, we’ll be undefeated in all our games and do well in our Cardinal Tournament again, as well,” Bear said.

AT THE HELM: Constantin starts his second season as coach of the Cardinals. A native of Romania, where he played water polo professionally, he took over the coaching reigns from Bill Harris, who compiled more than 240 wins from 2001-2015.

“He’s really nice and he’s really good at coaching us, too — he knows what we need to do at all times,” Bear said.

WHO’S GONE?: Rachel Sodokoff, Sarah Bellamy and Madison Ellsworth, all of whom were captains last spring, graduated. Sodokoff was a consistent offensive force, scoring clutch goals throughout the season. In her final game for the Cardinals at the team’s tournament, Sodokoff recorded a team-best four goals in a 9-8 win over the Naval Academy’s club team. Sodokoff is playing on the women’s water polo team at the University of Michigan. She totaled 111 goals over three seasons as a member of the Cardinals.

Bellamy and Ellsworth were also difficult players to defend, as was Meg Robinson. Also among the graduates was goalie Valerie Shaw.

WHO’S BACK?: Besides tri-captains Jomo, Bear and Leigh, returning is Annie Robinson. A junior, Robinson also had a knack for scoring big goals for the Cards last season. Junior Kellen Carlson emerged as a consistent performer last season, along with junior Julia Merrill. Sisters Peyton and Kate Turkeltaub (sophomores), sophomore Barbara Malone, junior Mariam Obaiah and Ainsleigh Winget are also among some of the returning players. Winget is slated to start in goal.

WATCH OUT FOR: Constantin said freshman Kaila Carroll should aid the team offensively in her first season.

STRENGTHS: “Everyone has the potential to score on our team,” Leigh said. “Most of the team swims and plays water polo, so that is definitely one of our strengths. We can definitely counter-attack.”

The Cardinals’ depth should also help them against their tough foes.

“Even though we lost some really good players from last year, we have a good freshmen class coming in that will help us this year,” Jomo said.

SHOWDOWNS: Greenwich Aquatics (home), March 30th; Greenwich Academy (away), April 4; Choate Rosemary Hall (away) April 8; Greenwich Academy (home) May 4; New York Athletic Club (home) May 6. The Cardinals will participate in the Choate Invitational on April 15, the Deerfield/Hopkins Tournament April 29 and will host their Cardinal Invitational on May 13.

dfierro@greenwichtime.com; 203-625-4423