Rams finish second in region
by PATRICK KEELEY
It turned out to be a battle of the two district champions in the final game of the West Region Water Polo Championship on Friday and Saturday, May 15-16. Hudsonville and Rockford, who have been the top two programs in the state for the last three years, found themselves in a battle that needed triple overtime and a sudden victory score to settle the match.
On Friday, the Rams beat an upset-minded Grandville 13-4. Grandville had made a miracle comeback against Zeeland to earn a spot at regionals. Seniors Mary Keeley, Kelsey Vermeer and Molly Wooldridge scored eight goals to power the Rams to victory and a spot at the state championship May 28-29. Rachel Marshall also scored, but a technicality erased the goal. Coach Reickard applauded the defensive efforts of Ariel Beattie, Amanda Johnson, Taylor Downs and Ashley Gremel. Christina Weston and Natalie Beeg had two goals apiece and Casey Wolfer scored one. Tiffany Elenbaas and Kaitlyn Korhorn shared duty in the goal.
On Saturday, the Rams needed to beat West Ottawa (WO) to get a chance at the regional trophy. The game started out close, but Keeley made a steal and beat her defender to the goal. They fouled to stop the goal, but Keeley scored on the five-meter. Then Keeley got into the two-meter area with a defender on her, and she beat the goalie to make it 2-0.
WO came back in the third quarter and regained the lead at halftime, 3-2. In the third, Beeg scored to tie, but WO got another goal and led 4-3. Then freshman Wolfer got two goals and Rockford led 5-4 to start the fourth. Vermeer scored to make it 6-4, but with 1:29 left in the game, WO had come back to tie it 6-6 and they took the lead 7-6 with only 22 seconds to go.
The Rams called a time-out, set up a play, and Keeley was fouled and received a five-meter shot. The goalie blocked it, but Beeg grabbed the rebound and scored with only seven seconds left to send the game into overtime.
In the first overtime period, Wolfer scored and the Rams were ahead. However, WO scored and the next overtime period started.
Beeg got a goal with two minutes to go, but WO tied it at 1:40. Then Vermeer stole the ball and hit Wolfer on a breakaway, but the goalie blocked the shot. On the pass in, Beeg shot and scored with only 31 seconds left. However, WO got a pass to the middle, then got a whistle and quickly shot and scored to send the game into sudden victory.
WO had a great chance on a six-on-five, but Korhorn grabbed the lob shot. On the next play, Keeley drew a kick-out and grabbed a rebound and scored to send Rockford into the final game.
In the final game, Hudsonville won the sprint and scored 15 seconds into the game. Then three minutes later it was 2-0, Hudsonville. Wooldridge threw a spinner that the goalie couldn’t handle, but Hudsonville scored again to go up 3-1.
At the start of the second quarter, Hudsonville won the sprint, but Keeley anticipated the pass, stole it and then raced to the goal and scored to make it 3-2 just 15 seconds into the quarter. But Hudsonville had momentum and scored two minutes later and was up 4-2 at halftime.
In the third, Wolfer made a shot to pull Rockford to within one. In the fourth quarter, the Eagles fans roared when the score went to 5-3. It looked bad for the Rams, and with a minute to go, down two goals, it didn’t seem possible. However, Wolfer sent in a shot that a defender deflected and it went in. Then at 00:26, Wooldridge got open in the middle and buried one to the corner to send the game into overtime. The Hudsonville crowd went silent.
Late in the first overtime period, the Eagles scored. But Keeley got a goal to tie it at 6-6 and then the game went into sudden victory. As the Eagles pushed toward the goal, a foul gave them a one-man advantage and they scored to win.
The Rams received several awards: Korhorn for goalie, and Vermeer, Keeley and Wooldridge made First Team All Region.
Rockford will now face Ann Arbor Pioneer, who finished third in the East Region, at Jenison Natatorium on Friday May 29. If Rockford can upset Ann Arbor Pioneer, the Rams will have a shot for the state title.