Young Rockford water polo team learns tough lessons

Senior Kyle Senior Kyle Peterson takes a shot. Photo by GORDON PETERSON

The Rockford boys water polo team won three games and lost three last week. Their 2009 record now stands at 7-4. Other teams in the region are gunning for Rockford, and the young Rams are learning how tough it is to close out games and win consistently.

Rockford started the week on Wednesday, Sept. 9 with a match in Grandville’s unusual shallow-deep pool. The senior-laden Bulldogs would not be denied in their home pool, scoring four fourth-quarter goals to end up on top 8-7. Derik Bothma, Jeff Schmitt and Eric Chisholm scored the Ram goals.

Over the weekend, Sept. 11-12, Rockford joined 15 other Michigan teams for the 2009 Shootout at the Shore, hosted by Grand Haven and West Ottawa high schools. Most of the top teams in the state competed in the shootout, giving players and coaches an indication of the state’s polo pecking order.


Senior Connor Thelen spots an open teammate.	Photo by GORDON PETERSON

Senior Connor Thelen spots an open teammate. Photo by GORDON PETERSON



Early victories over Hudsonville, Troy Athens, and Troy put Rockford in the final four. The three games featured a balanced scoring attack by Rockford—every player contributed at least one goal.

The Rams then squared off in the semifinals with rival Ann Arbor Pioneer. Four hard-fought quarters weren’t enough to decide a winner. Neither was a standard shootout. Finally, after several rounds of sudden-death shootout, Pioneer netted the win.

East Kentwood then defeated Rockford 8-7 in the consolation game, giving the Rams a fourth-place finish in the tournament. “It was a tough weekend for us,” conceded senior Tyler Manikowski. “But we’re looking to bounce back next week.”

Coach Dave McWatters isn’t discouraged by the week’s performance. The Rams suffered one-goal losses to three very good teams. “There are more quality teams in the state this year than ever before,” noted McWatters, “and the top teams are evenly matched. The key will be which team improves the most as the year progresses. I’m hopeful that our young team will pull ahead of some competitors.”


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