Expanded article: A crowning achievement for Brunswick water polo

The Brunswick School water polo team captured the New England Prep School Water Polo League championship by beating Deerfield Academy, 7-6. — photo courtesy of Brunswick School

The Brunswick School water polo team captured the New England Prep School Water Polo League championship by beating Deerfield Academy, 7-6. — photo courtesy of Brunswick School

For the first time in school history, the Brunswick School water polo team claimed New England gold, narrowly beating Deerfield Academy 7-6 Sunday afternoon at the Brunswick School Natatorium.

“This is nice and I couldn’t be more proud of our kids,” coach Eric Tillman said. “We have grown the program nicely and have started a middle school program. We graduate five guys and I am hoping that we can replace those guys because we have some good underclassmen. We are going to be OK for a while.”

After smashing Suffield Academy 17-6 in the semifinal round, the top-seeded Bruins entered the championship game against No. 2 seeded Deerfield. It was a stellar first half in which neither team could establish control and both teams played really well.

After a first half that ended in a 3-3 deadlock, it was Brunswick’s three goals in the third quarter that made the difference.

Leading the way for the Bruins was Pat Stefanou, as he scored six of the team’s seven goals and assisted on the other. The seventh goal was scored by Matt Marvin.

Because of his dominating play, Stefanou was named Tournament Most Valuable Player.

“He works harder than anybody,” Tillman said. “Pat gets this look in his eye and that’s when we know to just get him the ball. He delivered. Six of the seven goals in the Deerfield game he scored and assisted on the seventh. For him, this was the culmination of all his hard work. There’s a certain intensity that he has every single day that is kind of impressive.”

Brunswick goalie Charlie Pang was named the tournament’s top goalie, and Alex Prout and Matt Marvin were named to the All-Tournament team.

In the first game of the tournament, the Bruins easily took care of No. 4 seed Suffield Academy 17-6. Yet again it was another third quarter that propelled Brunswick to a victory, as it outscored Suffield 7-0.

Leading the way for the Bruins was Stefanou, who added another six goals to his tournament tally. Will Marvin added four goals and Simon Derby finished with the hat trick.

Not to be outdone were Prout and Matt Marvin, who each added two goals in the winning effort. Pang was once again lights out between the pipes, finishing with 15 saves. Jack Ocken came in late and finished with one save.

With the victories on Sunday, Brunswick finished its most successful season to date with an 18-2 overall record and was undefeated in conference play.

“It’s no secret that our team has been getting bigger over the past couple of years,” Tillman said. “This is the same team that we had last year, just a year older, a year bigger and a year smarter. These guys have learned and are better water polo players, better swimmers and it’s a continuation of the progression of the team as a whole.”

For Brunswick, getting the first championship in school history was huge. Last year, Brunswick once again steamrolled through the competition. However, in the New England championship, the top-seeded Bruins were upset in the opening round and had to settle for third place.

This season, with the tournament at Brunswick’s new pool, Tillman and the Bruins were able to get revenge from last year’s disappointing ending.

“Last year we went into the tournament with the No. 1 seed and lost in the first round,” Tillman said. “We didn’t even play well in the third-place game. This year it was remembering what happened. As we got into the hard part of the season, we played Deerfield, Andover and Exeter and again we were undefeated. I mean, this is what we were working for. We opened a brand-new pool, we are hosting a tournament and are the No. 1 seed again. We are a different team than last year, so we wanted to make it happen and finish it off this year.”

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