Rockford water polo tops two conference rivals

Senior Tyler Manikowski  

 

Senior Tyler Manikowski overpowers an opponent. Photo by GORDON PETERSON

The Rockford boys water polo team won two key conference match-ups this week, pushing their season record to 14-5. East Kentwood and Hudsonville came to the Rockford pool looking to knock off the Rams. But Rockford used a blend of senior leadership and youthful energy to turn back the opposition.

The East Kentwood Falcons already have two one-goal victories over Rockford this season. They came to town Monday night, Sept. 21, looking for a third. But Rockford had other plans. The Rams jumped out to a quick lead, extending to a 9-4 halftime advantage. Senior Derik Bothma set the tone for the night by scoring six goals in that dramatic first half.

The second half settled into a defensive struggle. Every time the Falcons scored, the Rams answered. When the final buzzer sounded, Rockford had secured a convincing 12-8 victory. The four Ram seniors, Bothma, Tyler Manikowski, Kyle Peterson and Connor Thelen, scored 10 of the 12 goals—junior Jeff Schmitt scored the other two. Rockford’s defense was rugged as usual, led by Bothma and junior Pat Fase.

Wednesday night, Sept. 23, the Hudsonville Eagles came to challenge the Rams, hoping to find Rockford flat after a big win. Hudsonville’s combination of tough defense and clever shooting pushed Rockford to the limit. The teams were locked in a defensive struggle for the first three quarters.

Junior Jeff Schmitt

Junior Jeff Schmitt and sophomore Bryan Wasberg (#4) play "Ram tough" defense. Photo by GORDON PETERSON

Rockford finally found a spark late in the third quarter. With the score tied at 6-6, sophomores Wasberg and Josh Travis scored breakaway goals to give Rockford an 8-6 lead. After Hudsonville fought back in the fourth quarter to an 8-8 tie, sophomore Eric Chisholm scored to put Rockford ahead for good. The Rams hung on for a 12-9 victory, relieved to have escaped the Eagles.

Another youthful spark was provided by freshman Aedion Patino, who scored two goals and came up with four steals. Seniors Manikowski (four goals) and Bothma (eight steals) had big games as well.

Senior Kyle Peterson credits the team’s success to its unity. “We’ve played together a lot and know what to expect from each other. That helps us in tight games. We couldn’t have won these games without a strong team effort.”

The swarming Rockford defense dunks the opposition. Photo by GORDON PETERSON

The swarming Rockford defense dunks the opposition. Photo by GORDON PETERSON

Coach Dave McWatters congratulated his team on these big wins, but reminds them that “we still have a long way to go this season. Every team wants to beat Rockford and will bring their best effort to every game. We have to do the same.”

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