There was a lot learned May 14-15 at the East Grand Rapids natatorium during the East District Women’s Water Polo tournament. Head Coach Scott Voltz and his team showed some new lineups and offensive plays, different defensive match-ups and, most of all, that they can win a critical game when it counted. Coming into the tournament with second seed following two earlier-season close losses to East Kentwood, the Lady Rams were determined to beat the Falcons to gain fairst seed from the East District heading into regionals.
To get to the final game against East Kentwood, however, the Rams could not look past fast and powerful East Grand Rapids (EGR). The Rams had just beaten the tournament hosts in Rockford during their senior night, and the Pioneers wanted revenge.
It appeared they might get it. EGR came out strong and scored the only goal of the first quarter. The Lady Rams looked flat, with not the crispest of passes and several missed shots on goal. Fortunately, the Rockford girls got into the game in the second quarter, finding the back of the net three times.
The Pioneers responded with a quick goal to start the third quarter, and a five-meter shot drawn on a Rams penalty. Coach Voltz called key time-outs, and the Rams kept their cool and continued to push on defense. When the final whistle blew, the Rams were on top, 7-4, led by senior Natalie Beeg (three goals, one assist), sophomore Casey Wolfer (two goals, three assists), and seniors Ashley Gremel and Christina Weston, each with one goal and one assist. Junior goalie Tiffany Elenbaas was tough in goal, with eight saves and two steals.
When the Rams returned to the EGR natatorium at 2:15 Saturday afternoon to take on the East Kentwood Falcons, they knew they wanted to get on the board first and not look back. Their defense had been solid all season; they just needed to dial in on the net and a couple of key Falcon players.
Rockford’s Wolfer started the scoring, with two goals in the first quarter and one in the second. She led the team with five goals and three key steals, followed by Gremel with two goals, four assists and three steals. Seniors Weston and Beeg each had a goal. Beeg also had an assist and three steals and senior Holly Nauta had two key assists and a steal. Elenbaas was on fire, stopping seven attempts and battling for the ball with five steals.
Coach Voltz complimented the girls and noted how proud he was of “their continued improvement and determination. We started out slow against East [Grand Rapids], but the team stayed focused and learned they can win big games at crunch time.”
The Rams now advance to the regionals at East Kentwood on May 21-22. They will face another archrival, Hudsonville, winner of the West District. The Eagles beat the Lady Rams twice this year—the last time by just one goal at their shallow water, six-lane pool. The Rams will be ready and fired up. First and second places at regionals will advance to the state finals to be held June 3-4 in Saline, Mich.