Rockford topped Okemos in the finals of the East Kentwood Invitational on Sept. 19, capping an impressive five-win-one-loss week of polo action. The Rams pushed their season record to 12-5 with solid play at both ends of the pool.
The week began with the Rams’ first two conference wins: a 10-3 victory at West Ottawa and a 16-7 win at Jenison. Senior Derik Bothma had seven goals and senior Kyle Peterson had four steals against West Ottawa. Seven Rams scored against Jenison, with sophomore Alex Savage and Bothma each providing four assists.
The Rams opened the East Kentwood Invitational Friday night, Sept. 18, against the host Falcons. This evenly matched contest featured rugged defense and some spectacular shooting. Regulation ended in a 7-7 tie, and the tie-breaker shootout ended 10-10. East Kentwood then prevailed in the first round of the sudden death shootout for a final score of 11-10.
After another disheartening one-goal loss (their fourth in two weeks), Rockford coach Dave McWatters spent a restless Friday night wondering whether his team had “the character of a champion.” He found out Saturday morning when his Rams faced the talented and experienced Grand Haven Buccaneers.
Rockford’s trademark defense and the scoring of seniors Connor Thelen and Bothma kept the game close. But regulation ended in another 7-7 tie! The Rams’ character was now tested under extreme conditions. All five shooters responded by scoring—a perfect shootout, and a 12-10 victory.
The Rams then overpowered Zeeland 17-3. Eleven different Rams scored goals. Kyle Peterson and sophomore Josh Travis each contributed three assists. The final game of the tourney pitted the high-powered Okemos offense against Rockford’s swarming defense. The Rams proved to be too much, topping Okemos 8-4. Bothma concluded a week of prolific scoring with five goals to lead the Rams.
Bothma is quick to note, however, that water polo is a team sport. “We need everyone to play well if we’re going to be successful. This weekend everyone played their best and gave it their all. We really came together as a team.”