Ranked number one in the state, the Rockford Rams men’s water polo team opened up its dual season this past Wednesday with a victory over the visiting Jenison Wildcats. This was a strong home statement win for the Rams against the Cats. Right from the start, the Rams were focused and motivated.
In the first period, four Ram players scored as Rockford jumped out to a 5-2 lead. Rockford continued its balanced attack, gaining an 8-3 lead at half.
The Rams claimed the victory by a final score of 13-4. This was a total team effort as five Ram players had three steals and seven different Rams scored. Senior captain Nick Willison had a statement game, leading the scoring with four and also leading the team in assists. Senior Grant Beach dominated the hole set, scoring three.
After the game, Willison said, “It was important for us as a team to start the season off on the right foot and this win against Jenison was a good way to begin our dual matches.”
On the weekend, the Rams traveled to the lakeshore to compete in the Shootout at the Shore, which consisted of 14 teams playing at Grand Haven and West Ottawa pools. Rockford began the tournament by playing Grand Haven at the Bucs’ pool. The Rams dominated the Bucs, cruising to a 13-1 victory.
The contest was an opportunity for everyone to gain valuable playing experience. This became evident as Vietnamese exchange student Quang Le, new to the sport of polo, scored his first ever goal.
The Rams had a short night of sleep, as they traveled back to the Grand Haven pool for the 8 a.m. game against the Maples of Birmingham Seaholm. Minimal sleep did not hinder the Rams, however, as they overpowered the Maples and swam away with a 16-2 victory. Senior captain Justin Hulsebus led the team, scoring five goals.
Hulsebus said, “This was a solid team win. The entire squad played with 100 percent intensity throughout the entire game.”
The Rams next faced the Walled Lake Cobras. The Rams’ experience and depth proved too much for Walled Lake as Rockford won 21-1.
The semifinal games pitted the Rams against the Jenison Wildcats in one bracket and Hudsonville versus Zeeland in the other. The Rams came away with a 10-1 victory and Hudsonville bested Zeeland.
In the 7:20 p.m. championship game at the Buccaneer pool, the Rams and the Eagles of Hudsonville played an intense and tight game. The Rams opened up with scores by Hulsebus and Beach to take an early 2-0 lead. Beach, Jacob Davis and Mike Arend added scores in the second period to push the Rams to a 5-2 lead at the halfway mark.
The game became very exciting in the fourth period. The Eagles’ Kody Brinks scored three goals in a two-minute span to close the gap to 7-6 Rockford. With 2:14 left, Beach iced the game with a hole set sweep, making the final score in the contest 8-6.
Senior Cory Fase was clutch tending the goal. Going into the championship game, he had allowed only five goals into the net in four games, while the Rams had scored 60.
Tournament leaders were Beach in scoring with 14 goals, Willison leading with 14 steals while also scoring 13 goals, and Arend with nine assists.
The Ram record now stands at 15-0.