by Deborah VanDyke
Rockford Men’s Water Polo hosted the first invitational tournament of the season August 16 and 17 at Rockford High School. Nine teams competed, including Rockford’s 32 players divided into A and B teams.
Game 1 pitted Rockford’s B team against Okemos. Rockford beat them soundly with a score of 13-5. Sophomore Sam Sikkema and junior Ben Hoffmeister were high scorers of the game with four goals each. Sophomore Christian Williams showed his skills with an impressive 11 saves. This game was also the team’s introduction to Milos Ciric, Rockford’s exchange student from Serbia. In spite of just arriving in Grand Rapids that morning and never having practiced with the team, Milos made a beautiful assist to his host-brother, junior Joel Olson, who made the score. It is going to be an amazing year!
In game three, Rockford’s A team played Ann Arbor Pioneer. Junior David Newberger scored two goals, and Reese Patino, Joey Finnie, Jacob Davis, and Brent Trewhella each netted one as well. Senior Jacob Davis stole the ball five times, while senior goalie Kyle Hams stopped seven goal attempts. The Rams won the game 6-1.
Rockford’s B team trounced Dexter for game six with a score of 16-1. Ben Hoffmeister found a sweet spot in the corner of the goal five times. Brandon Artz and Yousef Bennett, both freshman, eagerly scored the first goals of their high school careers. Sophomore Jacob Vickery made six assists, while Israel Chino and Nathan Isley made three each. Christian Williams blocked 10 goal attempts by his
Early Saturday morning, Rockford’s A team took on Birmingham Seaholm for game seven. Seniors Reese Patino, Jacob Davis, and Stephen Cress each scored three goals. Reese Patino stole the ball four times, and Chad Greenburg and Jacob Fase each stole the ball three times. Kyle Hams made four great stops. David Newberger and Tyler Willison each made three assists. The Rams defeated their opponents 18-3.
Game 12 between Rockford’s B team and Ann Arbor Huron was one of the most aggressive games of the tournament. By the end of the second quarter, Rockford was down by six points. During the third quarter Sam Sikkema, with an assist from a teammate, was able to land two goals to bring the team within four points. In spite of outstanding team effort and six steals each by Nathan Isley and Nick Hanson, the Rams were defeated 12-18.
Rockford’s A team beat Dexter 17-1 for game 15, and then it was on to game 16, in which Rockford’s B team opposed Birmingham Seaholm. Alex Cutler and Ben Hoffmeister were high scorers with three goals each. Chris Williams blocked like a pro with six stops, and Nick Hansen stole the ball five times. The Rams won 10-7.
The final game of the tournament was another aggressive one with Rockford’s A team challenging Ann Arbor Huron. High scorer Stephen Cress landed five goals, while Kyle Hams stopped Ann Arbor from scoring 10 times. Rockford won 12-8.
When asked about the tournament, Coach David McWatters responded, “This is just the beginning of a long season, and I am extremely pleased with how hard we are working and the atmosphere our team leaders have set.”
One of those team leaders is team co-captain, Reese Patino who remarked, “This was our first tournament and first time out as a team. I think we played very well together. This tournament helped set our tone for the season, but also made us face challenges that we will need to work on.”
The next opportunity to see Rockford Men’s Water Polo in action will be Friday, August 23. The varsity team plays at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School at 7 p.m. The junior varsity team plays in Jenison the same day.