Greenwich Water Polo Ready to Host Tourney, Travel Out West

Greenwich High School’s Manuel Pemberthy looks to fire a shot at the net during a recent game in the Beast of the East tournament. (contributed photo)

By Paul Silverfarb

The Greenwich High School boys’ water polo team can’t wait to get back into the pool again. With a bitter taste in their mouths from their loss in the Beast of the East championship match against cross-town rival Brunswick School, head coach James Ramaley and the rest of the Cards have been hard at work during practice for the past two weeks.

But the team is becoming antsy. They are ready to compete. And they get that chance later tonight, as Big Red is back in action. Tonight and tomorrow the GHS pool will be rocking, as the water polo team hosts its annual Cardinal Tournament.

“Every year we want to win our host tournament,” Ramaley said. “We lost last year to Brunswick in the final and the year before we lost to Chelsea Piers by one goal in the championship game. But every year we are in the finals of our host tournament. We put Brunswick in the opposite side of the bracket and I am sure that both teams have plans of meeting in the finals.”

During the Cardinal Tournament, Greenwich High School is in Group A, along with the Brunswick School B team and Phillips Exeter. The Cardinals will start play Friday at 4 p.m. against Brunswick’s B team and will be back in action at 7:20 p.m. against Phillips Exeter.

If the Cards are tops in their group, they will resume action Saturday at 1:50 p.m. when they play either Chelsea Piers, Navy AC or the Greenwich High C team. From there Big Red will play at a time to be determined Saturday evening.

“It’s our home pool and I know we can play with anybody in this tournament,” said Ramaley. “We have some strengths that might counterbalance Brunswick’s weaknesses if we play them in the finals. I think we are a little deeper and a little more balanced out, but Brunswick definitely has some top guys and some size on us.”

And there’s little rest for the Cardinals once their host tournament is over. After only a few days of practice, the GHS water polo team packs its bags and heads out west for the Steve Pal Tournament in Orange County.

“It’s great that we are going to California right after the Cardinal Tournament,” Ramaley said. “If we lose in the Cardinal Tournament we can quickly forget about it and hope to turn the corner. If we win the Cardinal Tournament we can use that to build momentum for the trip to California. Either way we don’t have a lot of time to think about what happened at the Cardinal Tournament.”

And the talent Big Red will face is going to be top-notch.

“It’s good for the program and it shows that we are growing,” Ramaley said. “Back when I was in high school playing here or even before that, we were okay with going undefeated against teams around us. With all the great competition around us now, we not only want to win but also play at a high level. I don’t really care too much about winning every game. Winning 18-5 is fun, but there can only be so many of those games. I would much rather go 25-5 than 30-0, knowing that we played against some of the best teams in our area and the country.”

Greenwich High School goalie Eric Ducret keeps his eye on the ball during a recent contest. (contributed photo)

Without disrespecting any of Big Red’s opponents this year, Ramaley said that he breaks his season down into four tournaments, with three tourneys in close proximity of each other on the schedule. Two weeks ago, GHS battled in the Beast of the East tournament, and they will be in action this weekend when they host the annual the Cardinal Tournament. From there its a few days of practice and it’s off to California for the Cards, as they compete in the Steve Pal Tournament.

“These three events are big for us because they tell us how the season is going to look,” Ramaley said. “We can be anywhere between a one loss team this season or we could be a four-loss team. We are playing a lot of tough competition.”

In the middle of November, Greenwich High competes in another tough event, the Mid-Atlantic Championships.

Back in the middle of September, Greenwich had a stellar outing during the annual Battle of the Beltway Tournament, using its depth and overall talent to beat Navy AC (15-8), Gilman School (17-4), Hill School (17-5) and Mount St. Joseph (22-8) and grab the tourney championship.

Keeping the good times rolling, Big Red traveled to Pennsylvania for the Beast of the East Tournament and GHS dominating en route to the championship game. They blasted Lawrenceville (18-2), North Penn High School (16-5), Cathedral Prep 16-4 and Wilson High School (21-6).

In the championship game, Greenwich saw a familiar foe in crosstown rival Brunswick School and were defeated 14-10.

“That game against Brunswick was a little shocking to us,” Ramaley said. “We haven’t had any adversity this year until that championship game at the Beast of the East. Brunswick already went on their California trip and played a bunch of tough teams there. They were good when we saw them at the Beast of the East. We took a 2-0 lead and they kind of hit us in the mouth after that. They came back with a big run in the second and third quarters.”

Having no games between the championship game of the Beast of the East tournament and the start of the Cardinal Tournament has been a challenge for GHS. Ramaley said that the players and coaches are eagerly counting down the seconds to get the annual tourney at the GHS pool underway.

“I know these two weeks have been long after losing in the finals of the Beast of the East against Brunswick,” Ramaley said. “We haven’t had a game in between and I know these boys are brooding on that loss. California is nice because win or lose we have a fresh slate going there. There’s no rivalry or animosity over there because we don’t know who we are playing. We just get to play. Last year we went 4-1 out there and it was probably one of the best trips I have been a part of. But if we go 2-2, I don’t think it’s going to make the trip any worse.”

Greenwich High School has only one loss this season and Ramaley believes that it’s because of the leadership from its four senior captains: John Carusso, Thomas Hoffmeister, Charlie Clark, and Spencer Plavoukos.

And this year’s group is special for Ramaley, as it’s the first time the seniors captains have been on the varsity’s top team since freshman year.

“They are great leaders,” Ramaley said. “They have been playing together since freshman year and they all bring a ton of experience. They have competed in Canada, Michigan, California and Maryland and all know what it takes to be successful. They are ready to lead and bring home some titles for this year’s team. Charlie is second on the team in goals and Thomas and John are up there in assists. Spencer is third on the team in goals. They all contribute to the team’s success and that’s all you can ask for.”

When it comes to goals, no one is better than junior Manuel Pemberthy, who is pacing the team with 37. He also leads Big Red with 17 assists. What makes his stat total so impressive is that he’s compiled those numbers in only 13 games this season.

“Because so many teams are no focusing on Manuel, he passes the ball a bunch and now leads the team in assists as well,” Ramaley said. “He’s a smart player. It’s even more impressive because in 10 of those 13 games played, he only playing half of it because of blowouts. He’s really strong and scored two in every game and three goals in 10 games.

In addition to Pemberthy, Clark has been lights out. The senior currently has 24 goals, 11 assists and 17 steals. Not to be outdone is Tom Cass, as he is the third player on the team with 20 or more goals. Cass has 20 goals, four assists and leads the team with 22 steals.

Plavoukos added 19 goals, eight assists and 17 assists this season, while teammate Hoffmeister has been all-around a solid contributor by pitching in with 18 goals, 14 assists and 13 steals. In 13 games, Fillip Norell has fired in 17 goals and 16 assists, while picking up 21 steals.

“This year we have been more balanced than I thought we would be,” Ramaley said. “Ten of our permanent varsity players have at least 10 goals in 13 goals. And that includes five that have 20 goals.”

Between the pipes, Big Red has been paced by the stellar play of Eric Ducret. In 39 quarters of action Ducret has picked up 59 saves and has only allowed 65 goals. In addition, Ducret is tied with Norell for second on the team with 16 assists and is third on the team with 15 steals.

“Eric is consistent,” Ramaley said. “He’s mellow when he’s in net. He plays a little more like a field player when in goal. He doesn’t play with that raw athleticism, but we uses his brain a lot. He knows where he needs to be and we know he’s going to be there for us.  Eric does a great job and is really smart at coming out for steals. His passes are also amazing and does a great job and getting the transition started.”

The Cardinal Tournament tips off at the GHS pool later on today and concludes Saturday at 7 p.m. with the championship match.

About Author: Paul Silverfarb

Paul Silverfarb, has been editing and reporting on events throughout Connecticut for over a decade. Mr. Silverfarb is quite familiar with Fairfield County, as he grew up in Trumbull, currently resides in Fairfield. Throughout over two decades, he has worked as the editor-in-chief at the Sentinel, as well as sports editor of the Sentinel, Greenwich Post and Norwalk Citizen~News. He graduated from Keene State College in New Hampshire.

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