With approximately 75% of their regular season games completed, the Rockford Varsity Men’s Water Polo team remains undefeated and focused on defending its 2016 State Championship.
Very few teams have challenged the Rams this year with the exception of long time rival Okemos, who Rockford played for the fourth time this season on Aug 31. After two Rockford victories, these rival teams battled to a 6-6 tie in their previous game. In this fourth match up, the Rams trailed by a narrow margin through the first three quarters before outscoring Okemos 3-0 in the final period to end the game with a 10-9 victory. Jack Sikkema led the stats sheet with 3 goals, 3 steals and 2 assists. Derek Zahnleuter added 5 assists.
The Rams then carried this momentum to the Shootout at the Shore Tournament on Sep 8-9 where they won five games and the overall trophy. Rockford’s path to the trophy started with an 11-8 victory over Grand Haven where Jack Sikkema and Jacob Newberger led scorers with 3 goals each. Jack, Gavin Saur and Derek Zahnleuter had 3 steals each.
Rockford’s bench played most of the next game against Saline. The Rams stole the ball 18 times, led by Ryan Dulak with 5 and Asher Chino with 4. Cole McAnelly and Ben Schuchardt combined for 10 saves in the goal. Final score was an 11-4 victory for the Rams. Six different players scored in Rockford’s next game against Jenison. Jack Sikkema contributed 4 goals and 3 steals to a 10-6 victory for the Rams.
Game three pitted the Rams against rival Okemos. This game would prove to be far less competitive than their last meeting with Rockford taking the win 12-5. Jack Sikkema lit up the stat sheets with 5 goals and 5 steals. Paul Sikkema added 3 goals while Jacob Newberger stole the ball 6 times. Cole McAnelly blocked 12 shots in the goal.
The Rams faced off against Hudsonville for the tournament championship and poured on the defense to score an 11-8 victory. Nine diff players collected 19 total Steals, led by Jack Sikkema and Jacob Newberger with 4 each. Zach Burns, Paul Sikkema and Derek Zahnleuter each added 2 steals. Jack Sikkema led scorers with 6 goals
One week later, the Rams traveled to Zeeland for a round robin tournament on Sep 22-23. Once again, Rockford’s defense was the dominant force. Over the course of three games, the Rams amassed 69 total steals: Jack Sikkema had 13, Derek Zahnleuter had 10, Kyle Arend and Paul Sikkema had 8, Ryan Baker had 6, Sean Martella had 5, and Gavin McIntyre and Gavin Saur each added 4. Senior Beckett Vigh contributed yet another steal and an assist.
Defending the goal, Josh Corder blocked 14 shots, Derek Zahnleuter blocked 4, Ryan Dulak blocked 3 and Spencer Nestle blocked 2. On offense, eleven different players contributed goals as the Rams cruised to three easy victories against Jenison 18-7, E Grand Rapids 12-3, and the Okemos “B” squad 18-3.
On Sep 29-30, the Rams traveled to East Grand Rapids for yet another round robin tournament. Defense continued to be Rockford’s strength as nearly every member of the team contributed to a total of 81 steals over the course of 5 games. Sophomore Ben Schuchardt filled in as goalie for the weekend and blocked 31 shots.
After victories over Zeeland 14-6, E Grand Rapids 13-4 and East Kentwood 15-4, the Rams faced off against rival Okemos. Rockford jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first half and led 7-2 at the end of the third quarter. Okemos then battled back to tie the game 7-7 with just 47 seconds to go. With even less time remaining, Jacob Newberger scored for the Rams. Rockford goalie Ben Schuchardt then blocked a shot by Okemos in the last four seconds to secure an 8-7 victory for the Rams.
Rockford’s last game of the tournament was an 11-6 victory over Hudsonville where Paul Sikkema led the stats sheet with 4 goals and 6 steals.
In addition to weekend tournaments, the Rams are now 6-0 in regular Conference play. With just two conference games remaining, Rockford is well on their way to winning their 25th straight Conference Championship. Conference victories so far this season include Hudsonville 12-4, East Kentwood 26-2, Grand Haven 19-8, Jenison 16-7, Grandville 16-1, and West Ottawa 19-5.
Prior to their conference game against West Ottawa on Sep 28th, the Rams recognized 13 senior players at their annual Senior Night at Rockford’s pool. In keeping with tradition, seniors played the vast majority of this game. As a result, seniors scored all the team’s goals, led by Jack Sikkema with 7, Gavin McIntyre with 4, Jacob Newberger and Paul Sikkema with 3 each, and one more each from Josh Corder and Derek Zahnleuter. In an incredible display of defensive effort, seniors also amassed 35 of the team’s season-best total of 36 steals in this game. Josh Corder and Paul Sikkema led the steals column with 5 each, followed by 4 each from Ryan Baker, Asher Chino and Jack Sikkema. Six other seniors each added 2 steals.
Rockford is now 31-0-1 for the season and remains on top of the State rankings. Meanwhile, with this most recent victory over Okemos, Rockford’s rivalry with the Chiefs this year stands at 6-0-1 in favor of the Rams. The intensity of the rivalry continues for both teams despite the fact that Rockford will not face Okemos again until the post season State Championship Tournament in November.
Meanwhile, the Rams have two tournaments remaining this season. On Oct 6-7 they travel to Ann Arbor where they will face off against some very strong teams from outside the State of Michigan. On Oct 13-14, the Rams will host a tournament at Rockford’s pool. Throughout all these games, the Rams must remain prepared to defend and ready to repeat as State Champions.