On March 25 and 26, the Rockford girls water polo team traveled to Ann Arbor to take on some of the best competition the state has to offer in the sport. To play five games in less than 24 hours is tiring to say the least. However, the level of play gave the girls some tremendous practice and insight to their game.
Friday’s opening game saw the Rams taking on the defending state champion Okemos team. Okemos came out strong and did not let up, handing Rockford an 8-0 defeat. Noted strong Ram performances were senior goalie Tiffany Elenbaas’s 10 saves and numerous steals by a strong Rockford defense.
Ann Arbor Skyline was up next for Friday’s nightcap game. Although a brand-new high school and a young team, the competition was strong and game number two ended in a 6-6 tie.
The Rams jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the first quarter with senior Lauren Hulsebus and junior Adrianna Craft scoring quickly. Craft assisted on Hulsebus’s first score and was then assisted by senior Taylor Downs on her own scoring shot. Skyline answered with one goal, but another Downs-to-Craft play ended the quarter with the Rams up 3-1.
The rest of the game was all junior Casey Wolfer, who scored three times on five-meter penalty shots, one in each remaining quarter. Although the Rams played their usual tenacious defense, Skyline was able to keep the scored tied for the remainder of the game. Elenbaas had another strong game, protecting the net with nine saves.
Saturday morning, the team started early with an 8 a.m. game against Ann Arbor Huron, which ended at 7-5 for the River Rats of Huron.
Once again, Rockford started the scoring with two quick goals in the first quarter and managed to hold onto a 4-2 halftime lead. However, the second half belonged to Huron, who went on a 5-1 scoring terror against the Rams.
Hulsebus and Wolfer led the Rams with two goals apiece and junior Morgan Longberg added one goal to the total. Downs led the team in assists with two, and Hulsebus and Craft contributed one assist apiece.
Dexter provided the competition for game four of the weekend. The Rams walked away from this one with a well-played 4-2 victory. Wolfer led the team with two goals, and Hulsebus and junior Madison Levine added one each to the total. Hulsebus also had two assists in the win and senior Sloan Ouellette added one assist.
The final game of the weekend was against Saline, who grabbed the win with a 10-5 score. The Rams ended up in a quick 0-3 deficit, but managed to hang on the first half, being down by only two goals thanks to two quick scores by Wolfer. Saline, however, played an outstanding second half and outscored the Rams 6-3.
Rockford had goals from Wolfer, Levine and Craft in the second half. Seniors Erica Finlayson and Jamie Van Portfliet each added an assist, as did Levine.
The competition seen by the water polo team over the weekend was invaluable. According to second-year head coach Scott Voltz, “The east side of the state offers a tremendous pool of talent. This weekend enabled us to play five very tough teams and evaluate what we need to improve on. Many things went well for us, too, which says a lot for our own caliber of play this early in the season.”