by PATRICK KEELEY
The West Ottawa Panthers water polo girls celebrated senior night at their pool when they hosted the Rockford Rams on Thursday, April 30. Rockford quickly took control with two goals and it looked like a Ram party instead.
Then West Ottawa stopped the Rams’ next scoring try and scored themselves, and the battle was on. Then, both teams each scored three more goals, and Rockford led at the half, 5-4. Kelsey Vermeer scored her third goal of the day to make it 6-4, but West Ottawa defense clicked and the Panthers came back with one goal in the third. Then the Panthers tied the score at six apiece with five minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
Molly Wooldridge got the ball in the hole and, with a player drowning her, managed to get a shot off and beat the goalie to give the Rams a one-goal lead. A minute later, Christina Weston looked right and zinged one left into the left side of the net for the final goal to give the Rams a hard-fought 8-6 victory.
With the win, the Rams need only one more win-against East Kentwood on May 5, which is also senior night for Rockford-and they will be undefeated in league play.
Rockford’s water polo girls have been incredibly busy for the last two weeks, with the varsity and junior varsity teams playing almost 20 games each. The varsity team managed to beat Grand Haven, Hudsonville and Zeeland twice each, plus Grandville, Forest Hills and East Grand Rapids once each. But a tournament final loss to Ann Arbor Pioneer, and losses to Chicago area teams from Stevenson, Fenwick and McCauley, followed by additional losses to Ann Arbor Pioneer and Fenwick May 2 give the Rams more losses than Rockford has had in years.
Coach Reickard was philosophical, saying, “In Chicago, we got off to a slow start and made too many mistakes. Then we picked up the pace and our last game was our best. We moved the ball. Fenwick hasn’t been held under eight goals all year, and we had them until the last quarter when they beat us 4-3. It was a successful tournament and it taught us what we need to do to make a successful run at the state tournament.”
Rockford will be hosting this year’s district playoffs on Friday, May 8, with the championship games on Saturday, May 9, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.