What can only be described as a phenomenal season came to an end Saturday, June 4, for the Rockford girls water polo team, losing in the state final game to Okemos High School.
The road to the final game began Friday with a Ram victory against a tough Ann Arbor Pioneer team. The fans were on the edges of their seats the whole contest, watching the Rams grab a tough 8-7 overtime win to advance to the semifinal game.
The game started with two stubborn defenses battling to scoreless first quarter. After that, it was an evenly matched back-and-forth event until senior Lauren Hulsebus scored the winning goal late in overtime on a soft touch pass by senior Taylor Downs. The dogfight ended with junior Casey Wolfer scoring three times and sophomore Adrianna Craft scoring twice. Also adding to the goal total was senior Brandy Fase and junior Maddie Levine.
Defense was the key in this game with Fase and Wolfer getting six steals apiece, Hulsebus added four steals and senior Jamie VanPortfliet had five, Downs two and Craft had one. Senior goalie Tiffany Elenbaas had nine saves in the game.
Saturday morning saw the Rams at it again against the Ann Arbor Huron River Rats. This contest, however, was controlled by Rockford from start to finish. Even though Huron scored the first goal, the Rams answered with two of their own. Craft scored an unassisted goal and Downs put one to the back of the net on an awesome assist by VanPortfliet to end the first quarter up 2-1. Hulsebus and Wolfer each scored in the second stanza and Rams were up 4-1 at the half.
The second half saw the River Rats scoring two goals, but it wasn’t enough. Downs and Wolfer both added goals in the third period and Hulsebus put the icing on the cake with two scores in the fourth for the 8-3 Ram victory, sending the girls into the state final game.
The final game against Okemos had both teams trading goals throughout the first half. Wolfer scored once and Fase added two beautiful goals on long outside shots, and this game started out in true championship fashion with a 3-3 tie after the first half.
The second half, however, saw the Chieftains slowly add three more goals, while stifling the Ram offensive attack and taking home their second consecutive state title with a 6-3 victory. Craft and Downs had two steals each in the game, and Wolfer added one. Elenbaas had two steals of her own and had 15 saves in the net.
After the game Rockford Coach Scott Voltz stated, “I couldn’t be more proud of the girls on this team. They never give up. This Okemos team is tough. They’ve been ranked first in the state the entire season and our girls gave them a true battle. These girls have fought hard in game after game to get this far. Second in the state, that’s just awesome.”
After the game several Okemos fans commented on how impressed they were with the clean, tough play of the Rams. They represented the Rockford community like true champions.