Greenwich High water polo finishes near-flawless season on top

The standout season for the Greenwich High School water polo team concluded in grand fashion, as the Cardinals came off its stellar performance at the Montreal Invitational and dominated the Mid-Atlantic Interscholastic Athletic Championship.

“It as a great season, working with a great group of young men,” Greenwich High School head coach Terry Lowe said. “They were a solid team that worked together, they liked each other and their chemistry was excellent.”

In the championship game of the Mid-Atlantic tournament, which was held at the United States Naval Academy, Big Red got off to a slow start against Gonzaga College High School, but ended up cruising to a 14-5 victory to clinch the championship.

Goals by senior captain Will Klingner and Ben Wurst gave Greenwich a 2-1 lead to start the second quarter, however that’s when Big Red started to pull away. A pair of goals by Tyler Triscari, another goal by Klingner and 2-meter goal from Julian Fraser gave Greenwich its 6-2 halftime lead.

Klingner finished the game with a hat trick and junior Jack Robinson and sophomore Ed Moss each scored twice. Matt Fraser, Mack Neary and Robert Peterson each finished with one goal. GHS senior goalie Steven Michaud came up with seven saves in the winning effort.

“We have a lot of confidence against Gonzaga because they just weren’t ready to handle to defensive pressure our team gives,” Lowe said. “We don’t score a lot of goals here, but we know our defense won’t let teams score in the double-digits. We also thought we were going to play Navy, and when they lost in the semis, I think that took some of the wind out of our sails. But we held in there.”

With the victory, Greenwich finished the regular season with an impressive record of 27-2-1. In addition to the stellar record, Big Red also won the Montreal Invitational, the Beast of the East Tournament and the team’s host event, the Cardinal Invitational.

Big Red got the momentum to capture the Mid-Atlantic championship tournament by dominating the Montreal Invitational in impressive fashion, winning all four games against some of the top competition from our neighbors to the North.

“I thought we played our finest water polo up in Montreal,” Lowe said. “To have four games up there against quality opponents in a solid 30-meter pool, it was the best possible thing for us. The officiating was excellent and we came away with four victories and three were close games.”

After defeating Dollard-des-Ormeaux 8-5 at its home pool to start the tourney, the Cardinals moved over to the Complexe Sportif Claude Robillard, one of the sites for the 1976 Olympic Games, for a round-robin tournament with CAMO, the host club, LAVAL and Dollard-des-Ormeaux.

A day later, after again defeating Dollard-des-Ormeaux 8-6, the Big Red ran away from LAVAL 17-3, which set up the championship finale against undefeated CAMO.

The CAMO game followed a familiar script for the Cardinals, who fell behind early and trailed by three goals midway through the third period, 7-4, before rallying for a 10-8 victory. CAMO jumped out to a 2-0 lead before a penalty shot by Klingner and a rebound goal by Matt Fraser tied the score at the end of the first quarter.

Greenwich took its only early lead when Matt Fraser scored the opening goal of the second period. In goal, Steve Michaud’s six consecutive saves over the end of the first and beginning of the second quarters kept his team in the game.

However, CAMO came back to score three straight goals to take a 5-3 lead before Triscari closed the gap to one, 5-4, at halftime.

Scoring the first two goals of the third quarter, the Montreal club took a commanding 7-4 lead. Matt Fraser’s third goal of the game followed by brother Julian Fraser’s first brought the Cardinals within one, 7-6. With nine seconds remaining in the period, Klingner fired in a man-up goal to tie the score at seven all.

Midway through the fourth, Tim Hardman tossed in a shot off a rebound to put Greenwich up for the first time since early in the second quarter. Another CAMO ejection gave the Cardinals a power play opportunity on which Matt Fraser powered in a perimeter shot and Greenwich went up by two, 9-7. Two minutes later, CAMO scored to come back to within one. But Julian Fraser, on the next possession, scored the clincher in the 10-8 victory. Making several critical blocks in goal, Michaud ended the game with 11 saves.

“I don’t think we’ve had a year where a team fought back as much as these guys did,” Lowe said. “We came from two, three, five goals behind and still won. We did it in the Beast of the East and in Montreal. It’s awesome to see a team that’s mentally tough enough and determined enough to keep playing, get stronger defensively and turn the tables late in the game. They did that with a real calm and controlled, determined effort. They never panicked.”

Lowe had the idea that this year’s group of Cardinals could accomplish something special when the GHS head coach noticed his team’s appearance in the annual Beast of the East tournament.

Playing some of the toughest competition on the East Coast, Greenwich not only were able to keep pace with team, but also came up with resounding victories. They won all the games played and took the Beast of the East crown. In fact, the two teams that Greenwich battled in the semis and finals, North Allegheny High School and Cumberland Valley, were the top two teams battling for top dog in Pennsylvania state championships..

“We were up against the two best teams in Pennsylvania and still came out with the win,” Lowe said. “We behind against both of them and still found a way to pull out the victory, in a very hostile environment. That shows the character when you can keep working it out, use your mental toughness and find a way to win those games.”

Keeping the team motivated and calm during all its close games was GHS senior captain Klingner, as Lowe said his captain is one of the most dedicated captains he’s dealt with during his long tenure at the school.

“He really will give you everything, every day,” Lowe said. “Whether it is in the weight room or in practice or in a game. He’s always going to work his butt off all the time. He sets a tremendous example for everybody else on the team and showed everybody on the team that he wants it as much as everybody else did.”

When it came to a defensive leader, no need to look farther than the man between the pipes for Big Red, junior Steve Michaud. Lowe expected big things from him at the start of the year and Michaud didn’t disappoint.

“He came through with enormous performances in key times,” Lowe said. “He’s in shooter’s head and has that mental toughness that says that he knows where the next shot is going to go and know what to expect in a big situation. He’s quick, athletic and he’s very cool under pressure. He has all the qualities you want in a good goalie.”

In 29 games played, Michaud finished with 238 saves and only gave up 165 goals. He added 40 steals, 16 assists and had a save percentage of 59%.

What makes Michaud so impressive is that he’s actually getting better, which means next year won’t be too much fun for the Greenwich opposition.

“He’s developing the one other piece that we want in a goalie, which is leadership and ability to direct traffic out there,” Lowe said. “As he gains more confidence, he’s just going to get better in that role.

Lowe believes that Matthew Fraser was stellar backing up Michaud with his defense, netting a team-high 63 steals and 11 blocks. However, a pleasant surprise has been the defense of Neary, who finished with only 21 goals, but added 43 steals and seven blocks.

“He didn’t do a lot of scoring for us, but he just played the coolest defense for us all year,” Lowe said. “He got virtually no kick outs against him and sometimes he played the toughest player on the other team. He shut them down. He’s so aware of where the ball is at all times.”

Big Red had other strong defenders. Senior Will Klingner added 40 steals, Julian Fraser finished with 46 steals and eight blocks and Tyler Triscari added 55 steals. Ben Wurst pitched in with 44 steals and eight blocks, while Ed Moss added 31 steals.

When it comes to the team’s offense, no one was better than Matthew Fraser, who finished with 85 goals, 40 assists and had 178 shots at net. While Matthew Fraser was a force at the attack, other Greenwich water polo athletes had success finding the back of the net.

Julian Fraser was second on the team with 59 goals and added 33 assists. He also attempted 129 shots on the net. Triscari was right behind Julian Fraser, finishing with 58 goals on 106 shots. He also pitched in with 55 assists. Klingner added 41 goals for Big Red, while taking 99 shots at net. He also added 17 assists.

Rounding out the top scorers for Greenwich High was Wurst, who netted 24 goals and 15 assists.

“We had a lot of guys that scored a lot of goals,” Lowe said. “If Matthew was off a little bit, Will Klingner could pick him up. Matt’s brother Julian or Tyler also could pick him up. We got a team where the opposition couldn’t focus on just one person. If they do, someone else will take over. We also had a nice bench. At the end of the year, we could put in 11 or 12 players and know they will be reliable on both offense and defense.”

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