On Friday, May 20, the girls varsity water polo team reached the New England prep school title game for the first time since 2011 with a thrilling upset victory over Greenwich Academy.
Seeded as the No. 3 team in the “Liquid Four” tournament, held at Phillips Exeter Academy, the Pelicans took on No. 2 Greenwich, a team to which they had lost 10-14 just 10 days earlier.
In the opening minutes of the game, both teams’ defenses stymied their opponents, but then senior captain Zoe Sorensen put the Pelicans up 1-0 with a precision shot from the right wing after a great pass from junior captain Jackie Ryckman in front of the goal.
Greenwich responded immediately to tie the score. Sophomore Charlotte Furia found Sorenson for her second goal of the game, and then Greenwich tied it up at two before the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter opened with a Gator goal, but Sorenson stepped up and scored her third of the game to tie the score again. From there, the defenses settled in for quite a stretch until Greenwich Academy scored two goals in a row. Furia found the back of the net to stop the run.
Just before the whistle blew to end the half, the Gators regained their two-goal lead. The Pelicans went into the locker room down 4-6.
Coming out of halftime, Greenwich scored two quick goals to build the Gators’ lead to four, but the Pelicans managed to change the momentum when sophomore Meredith Doherty pressured the Gators goalie and forced the opposition to call a timeout. That break gave the Pelicans a chance to regroup, and they went on a four-goal run, ending the third quarter with the score tied.
The fourth quarter opened with a Pelican goal, giving the team its first lead since the beginning of the game. From there, the teams exchanged goals, and then Ryckman scored back-to-back goals to secure a 12-10 victory for the Pelicans.
The win, which sent the team to its first New England title game in 12 years, meant the team would play just a few hours later against No. 1-seeded Williston Northampton School. Despite the Pelicans’ best efforts in that game, the team couldn’t keep up with the repeat New England champion Wildcats, and the Pelicans fell 2-19.
“I’m incredibly proud of what the girls did this year. They worked extremely hard and had fun in the pool every single day, and as a coach that is all I could ever ask for,” said head coach Ed Pond.
The team wrapped up the season celebrating its award winners, including five All-New England Prep School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC) athletes. Furia received an All-NEPSAC Honorable Mention, sophomore Aiste Bardauskaite was named to the All-NEPSAC First Team and received a Coaches’ Award, Ryckman was named the team MVP and was selected for the All-NEPSAC First Team, Sorenson was named to the All-NEPSAC First Team, and Doherty was named the Most Improved Player on the team and was chosen for an All-NEPSAC Honorable Mention.