Brunswick water polo ready to host New Englands as top seed

The Brunswick School water polo team is the top seed in Sunday’s New England championship, which will be held at the school’s new natatorium. — photo courtesy of the Brunswick School athletic department

The Brunswick School water polo team is the top seed in Sunday’s New England championship, which will be held at the school’s new natatorium. — photo courtesy of the Brunswick School athletic department

It’s all right there for the Brunswick School water polo team.

After a dominating regular season, the Bruins are poised to make some serious noise in the upcoming New England Prep School Water Polo League tournament.

“I think we are pretty confident,” senior Julian Ronda said. “We’ve played all these teams and matched up against them. We did pretty well in the past and we’ve been constantly improving this season, so I am expecting good things from us.”

After two years at Exeter, the New England championships will be held at Brunswick’s home pool on Sunday. The Bruins have locked up the No. 1 seed in the tourney, while Deerfield Academy, Brunswick’s main rival, secured the second seed. Exeter, with its thrilling 11-10  overtime victory earlier this week over Hopkins, also secured a playoff appearance.

“We haven’t done as well as we hoped the past few years when we traveled to Exeter, so hopefully having the tournament here at home in our new pool will be a boost,” senior Grant Pierce said. “We love playing here, so it will be a good way for us to end our season.”

For head coach Eric Tillman, the upcoming tournament is the culmination of what has been a stellar season for the Bruins.

“We are thrilled right now and couldn’t ask for more,” Tillman said. “We are hosting the tournament, the pool is in great shape and the school is really behind us. We have the No. 1 seed and life is pretty good right now.”

Throughout the season, Brunswick has been steamrolling its competition in the New England prep school leagues. In conference, the Bruins finished the regular season a perfect 11-0. Its undefeated conference record assured the Bruins of the top seed in Sunday’s championship.

“It’s safe to say that the expectations are for us to win a New England championship,” senior Alex Prout said. “I’ve been in the program for the past four years and I’ve been wanting one so bad. It’s another opportunity and I can’t wait to try and capture a championship. We are 100% determined. Everybody is amped up for this and ready to go. We want to take this home.”

While the Bruins and Deerfield are locked in as the top two teams, Hopkins, Andover and Suffield played this week to see who gets the final two slots in Sunday’s New England tourney.

“This is a dream come true for all of us,” senior Matt Marvin said. “To host this tournament and have our last chance to win the championship as seniors is special. We had the No. 1 seed last year and it worked to our disadvantage. This year, with the top three teams being so competitive, it’s nice to have that easier match going in. It’s key for us and a confidence builder.”

For the Bruins to be successful in the New England tournament, Tillman said that his team must play with poise.

“They have the tools and they have the tactics,” Tillman said. “It’s just one of our fears that we haven’t dealt with much adversity this year. We haven’t had to play from behind a lot. Except for Greenwich High School, there’s not that many teams that make us play hard. Whoever we play at New Englands will make us play hard, and I hope our kids respond well.”

And even in those two losses against Greenwich High School, the lone two losses for Brunswick this season, Tillman was thrilled with the performance of his team.

“We weren’t disappointed with those losses,” Tillman said. “Greenwich High School is a tremendous program and I only hope one day that we can be like them. I wanted more of those type of games.”

In their regular season finale, the Brunswick water polo team concluded the New England Prep School Water Polo League schedule Saturday afternoon with a home meet against Choate Rosemary Hall and picked up the 18-6 victory.

Against Choate Rosemary Hall, Brunswick was paced by Pat Stefanou’s six goals, followed by Will Marvin’s five tallies and Simon Derby’s four. Julian Ronda, Alex Prout and Lucas Bell rounded out the scoring with single goals each.

Charlie Pang and Jack Ocken had quiet days in the net for Brunswick. Charlie made four saves and Jack made two.

“It’s great when we can get everybody in the pool,” Tillman said. “That really matters. Not just for the idea of preparing for next year, but these guys work really hard during the week and deserve to get in the water. It’s nice to get everybody in.”

When it comes to putting the tallying goals, Brunswick has a plethora of talented forwards. With Prout, Pat Stefanou, Will Marvin, Matt Marvin and Simon Derby, the Bruins have five guys that put the ball in the net from anywhere in the pool.

“We spent a lot of time practicing shooting,” Tillman said. “That was one of our weaknesses last year. We weren’t putting the ball in the cage. This year we are shooting much better. Our shooting percentage is much higher.”

One of the main reasons for the team’s success has been the play of goalie Charlie Pang.

“Charlie is awesome,” Tillman said. “He’s a quality goaltender that works hard in practice. He’s a self-starter and he’s a dedicated water polo player. It’s so nice to have him, not only as a shot stopper, but his outlet passes are on the money.”

While the scoring has come fast and furious and the goaltending has been solid, a bunch of other players have stood out this season.

“We even have guys on the bench that can come in and score,” Tillman said. “Thatcher Scannell comes off from the bench, and although he doesn’t score, he’s a smart player that plays great defense and sets up everybody else to make them better.”

Although he doesn’t show up a lot on the stats sheet, Julian Ronda has been light’s out for Brunswick this season.

“He’s our hole defender and he’s been a great influence in the middle of the defense,” Tillman said. “He maintains his poise. It’s so easy to get carried away and if he gets a time serving penalty, we are so surprised that we shrug our shoulders.”

“This season has been good to us,” Ronda said. “We are a close team and always are with each other. It’s a close-knit team and that helps in the pool because everybody knows each other and what our strengths are.”

Another unsung hero for the team has been Pierce, one of the nicest kids on the roster. However, Tillman asked Pierce this season to lose some of the niceness in the pool and show more aggression.

“He has asserted himself a lot more this year and therefore has been a productive force for us,” Tillman said. “Stepping up his game meant everything for us. It meant one more big body that needed to be accounted for. Having him step in and use that body has been an important part of winning big games.”

“We’re thrilled with how we played this season,” Pierce said. “We’ve been beating teams by over 10 points quite a bit, which is far better than what we’ve ever done. We play well as a team and help each other improve. That shows when we go up against our opposition and dominate.”

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