Rockford water polo claims sixth straight district title

The Rams celebrate their

The Rams celebrate their sixth consecutive district trophy. Photo by GORDEN PETERSON

Rockford fought through a week of illness and some stiff competition to claim its sixth consecutive district water polo title Saturday, Oct. 24 at the Rockford High School pool. The Rams have not lost a game in a district championship tournament since the format was adopted in 2004. The boys now move on to the West Region tournament at East Kentwood, where they’ll work to qualify for the state championship tournament.

“This was the toughest competition we’ve ever seen in the district tournament,” noted Coach Dave McWatters. “I salute the tough teams in our district—they came ready to play. And I congratulate the 2009 Rams for fighting through adversity and bringing Rockford another district trophy.”

Rockford’s senior captains, (l–r) Connor Thelen, Kyle Peterson, Tyler Manikowski and Derik Bothma, help the varsity water polo Rams to another district title.	Photo by GORDON PETERSON

Rockford’s senior captains, (l–r) Connor Thelen, Kyle Peterson, Tyler Manikowski and Derik Bothma, help the varsity water polo Rams to another district title. Photo by GORDON PETERSON

Rockford’s first opponent of the tournament was East Kentwood, who came in ranked number one in the state. Rockford’s swarming defense disrupted the Falcon attack, and the Rams built a 5-1 halftime lead. East Kentwood stormed back in the second half, but Rockford managed just enough offense to hang on for a 7-6 victory. Rockford’s defense made the difference with 28 steals in the game, including five by goalie Pat Fase, and four each by seniors Tyler Manikowski and Derik Bothma. Bothma led the team in scoring with four goals.

The Rams then faced the number-one seed in the tournament and the number-five team in the state, the Grandville Bulldogs. Rockford and Grandville shared the OK conference title this year, so there was a little extra energy in the pool for this match. Grandville’s defense seemed to have Rockford out of sync for

Junior Pat Fase stretches to make another critical save.	Photo by GORDON PETERSON

Junior Pat Fase stretches to make another critical save. much of the game, but the Rams kept battling. In the waning moments of the fourth quarter, Bothma found fellow senior Kyle Peterson open on the wing. Peterson whipped the ball into the net to give Rockford a 5-4 victory. Rockford’s balanced attack was once again on display—five different Rams scored the five goals. Photo by GORDON PETERSON

“It feels great to keep Rockford’s streak of district championships alive,” said a smiling Peterson. “I’m proud of the effort our entire team put forth. The tough teams we played made this weekend a real challenge. But even when we were down against Grandville, we fought back and won by working together as a team.”

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