Rockford girls water polo wins state championship

Rams co-captain Casey Wolfer defends against Zeeland en route to Rockford winning the regional title.

The Lady Rams headed into the regional tournament Friday, May 18 with high expectations and they certainly delivered. The girls won the regional title by defeating Grand Haven, Hudsonville and Zeeland in the finals.

The first game against Grand Haven featured a fine team effort with goals from Marie Siegel, Adrianna Craft, Casey Wolfer, Maddie Levine and Kara Vandawater on their way to a 10-5 victory. This win set up a rematch with a difficult Hudsonville team.

The Hudsonville team came ready to play and seemed very determined to knock off the Lady Rams. This was a back-and-forth game and really could have gone either way. But good teams find a way to win, and Rockford prevailed 6-5. A timely goal by Morgan Longberg as time was winding down in the fourth quarter sealed the win for the Rams.

Other goals scored by the Rams in this game came from Craft, Vandawater and Levine. Several key saves by Ellianna Raymond helped to the game close. This win set up the final championship game against a fine Zeeland team.

In the championship game against Zeeland it was evident from the start that the Rams would not be denied. By halftime Rockford had a commanding 4-2 lead with goals coming from Levine, Siegel, Vandawater and Craft.

In the second half the ladies continued their success from the first half and cruised to a 7-2 victory. Second-half goals from Craft, Longberg and Levine ensured a Ram victory. Winning this tournament puts the Lady Rams in great position for the upcoming state tournament in Lansing.

Regional tournament honors for Rockford went to Craft, Wolfer, Raymond and Vandawater.

The Lady Rams then headed to the state tournament in Lansing the weekend of June 1 and 2. Expectations have been set very high for this team after claiming the number-one ranking in the state early in the year.

The first game, played on Friday evening, was against Ann Arbor Huron. This team is a perennial powerhouse in girls water polo and would be a very good test for the Lady Rams. The first quarter featured two goals apiece by Craft and Wolfer, resulting in a 4-2 first-quarter lead. Wolfer added another goal in the second quarter and the halftime score was a very close 5-4 margin for the Rams.

The third quarter proved to be all Rockford. Goals by Wolfer, Siegel, Craft and Vandawater pushed the lead to 9-4. Abby Finlayson and Wolfer added another goal in the fourth quarter for a final score of 11-6 and securing the Ram victory.

The semifinal game was played on Saturday morning against a highly touted Dexter team. The winner of this game would earn the right to play in the finals later in the evening. The Lady Rams came out firing in the first quarter with goals from Craft, Wolfer and Longberg. At the end of the first quarter, Rockford held a 3-0 lead.

In the second quarter Rockford continued the momentum and padded their lead with goals from Craft, Wolfer and Siegel. This led to a commanding 6-0 halftime score. With goalie Raymond holding a powerful offensive Dexter team to zero goals in the first half, this really set the tone for the rest of the game. After three quarters of play Rockford held an 8-1 lead and cruised to a final score of 9-6. This win set up a rematch with defending state champion Okemos in the final game.

The championship game featured the number-one and number-two team in the state to decide who would claim the title for the 2012 season. The game certainly lived up to expectations with a very large crowd on hand for both teams. Vandawater scored the game’s first goal and Wolfer added another goal. At the end of the first quarter, Rockford held a 2-1 lead.

The second quarter was a defensive battle with only two goals being scored. Wolfer scored for the Rams, which resulted in a 3-2 Ram lead at halftime.

The third quarter again proved to be an excellent quarter for the Lady Rams. A goal scored by Craft and two goals by Vandawater helped to provide a slim advantage heading into the final quarter. Wolfer added another goal in the fourth quarter to help secure the championship for the Lady Rams.

This was an extremely close, hard-fought game and was certainly a tremendous effort by both teams. Excellent defensive play and goaltending by Raymond proved to be the difference maker for this Rockford team, which has played stellar defense all year long. In this case, it is true that strong defense wins championships. Rockford should be very proud of this team not only for the state championship but also in the way these girls have conducted themselves throughout the year. This is a tribute to Coach Voltz and his coaching staff. Well done, Lady Rams.

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