The Rockford boys water polo team hosted two conference foes last week, defeating each with an impressive display of team balance and depth. At the midway point of the season, the Rams’ record stands at 19-5 overall; 3-0 in the conference. Grandville came to town Monday, Sept. 20, hoping to defeat the Rams in conference play for the second straight year. The Bulldogs won a close game against Rockford last year, causing the two teams to split the conference crown. Rockford was ready for the Bulldogs this year, jumping to a 6-0 first-quarter lead, thanks to crisp ball movement and precise shooting. The Rams then battled Grandville goal-for-goal, cruising to 16-9 victory. Eight different Rockford players scored goals, led by senior Jeff Schmitt with four. Wednesday night, Sept. 22, brought the West Ottawa Panthers to the Rockford pool. Again Rockford sped to an early lead and never looked back, finishing with an 18-8 victory. Ten different Rams scored goals; sophomore Nick Willison was the leader with three. Aggressive defense captured 29 steals, including five by junior Alex Savage. In these two games, the Rams displayed an unselfish team-oriented approach to the game. Of the 34 goals scored, 25 were the result of assists. “We are a much better team than we were just two weeks ago,” observed Coach Dave McWatters. “There are many more challenges to go, but the pieces are coming together. Our individual athletes are figuring out how to lift one another’s quality of play. In other words, we are figuring out the elusive art of great team play.” “We get along well together as a team,” said Jared Martella, one of the team’s senior leaders. “There are no divisions between the different grade levels. We play well together no matter who’s in the pool, and we work to keep a positive attitude in the locker room.” Over the weekend, Rockford finished third at Zeeland’s Bird House Bash Invitational. Stout defense and balanced scoring produced big wins against Hudsonville (11-0), West Ottawa (13-0), and Zeeland (14-3). But Saturday morning the Rams lost a 6-5 overtime match to Birmingham Groves, the number four team in the state. Throughout the week, opposing teams had to contend with Rockford’s deep and talented bench. “Some teams depend […]
Rockford’s boys water polo team began defense of their OK conference crown last Wednesday, Sept. 15, with a convincing win over Zeeland. The Rams have won or shared the conference championship for the past 17 years, longer than most of this year’s players have been alive! The team traveled to Zeeland to square off against a strong, fast, senior-led Zeeland squad, who was ranked eighth in the state. After a slow first quarter, Rockford opened the second with two quick goals. The Rams pushed the score to 5-2 at the half and held on for a 7-4 victory. Senior captain Jeff Schmitt set the defensive tone, recording four of the team’s 19 steals. Juniors Bryan Wasberg and Eric Chisholm led the scoring with two goals each. “I was very pleased with our team’s performance,” said Coach Dave McWatters. “We practiced hard the two days before the game, preparing for our long-term goals, so we were very tired for the Zeeland game. Zeeland is a very talented team, but we were able to tough out the win under challenging circumstances—another step forward.” “Going into the game, we knew we had to focus on doing what we do best,” said Schmitt. “We feel good about the way we played and about the results.” Over the weekend, Sept. 17-18, Rockford entered East Kentwood’s Falcon Invite, which found them in a bracket that featured four of the top five teams in the state. Friday night, Rockford—ranked second in the state—renewed their rivalry against East Kentwood—ranked fourth in the state. Rockford scored early and often, and displayed a suffocating defense. The result was an impressive 10-4 Ram victory. Ball movement was a key to the Ram scoring, with their 10 goals—including three each by Schmitt and Chisholm—coming on eight assists, including four by Wasberg. “We really wanted to beat East Kentwood this week, and were able to do so with a total team effort,” noted Schmitt. Saturday morning found the top two teams in the state, undefeated Ann Arbor Huron and Rockford, locked up in a nail-biter. The teams were tied at the half, but Huron opened the second half with two goals. Rockford responded with three of their own, and carried a 6-5 advantage into the fourth quarter. But […]
Other veggie winners were senior Connor Thelen, junior Jared Martella (two cans), sophomores Cody Brown, Scott Ginebaugh, Nathan Napolillo, Ben Pitts, Alex Savage, and Josh Travis, and junior diver LJ McCauley. Rockford finished first in eight events, of which four were state-qualifying times, and placed second, third, fourth and seventh in the diving event behind Jenison’s Nate Reitberg. From the moment the opening buzzer sounded, Rockford controlled the waters. The first event—the 200-yard medley relay—ended with a powerful and close first and third finishes by relay teams Eric Chisholm, Alex Devries, Brian Ginebaugh and Thelen; and Andrew Denhof, Ben Fredrickson, Martella and Nick Willison. Before the waves could settle, Bryan Wasberg (1:50.37), Trenten Babcock (1:55.12), Jeff Schmitt (1:55.75), and Mike Arend (1:59.41) finished first, third, fourth and seventh in the 200-yard freestyle. Continuing to stir the waters, B. Ginebaugh (2:06.76), Josh Travis (2:07.41), Martella (2:10.91), and Willison (2:14.50) impressively swam first, second, third and fifth places in the 200-yard IM. The 100-yard backstroke also ended with notable first-, second-, fourth- and fifth-place finishes by Devries (57.82), Travis (58.62), Willison (1:00.30), and Thelen (1:01.59). The most commanding event of the evening was the 100-yard breaststroke. B. Ginebaugh (1:02.23, shaving .22 off his state-qualifying time), Martella (1:05.52), Dan Newberger (1:08.48), and Ian Rosloniec (1:08.76) swamped Jenison in the event with amazing first- through fourth-place finishes. Also, swimming state qualifying times were Derik Bothma in the 50-yard freestyle (22.61, shaving .03 off his time) and the 100-yard freestyle (50.06), and Devries in the 100-yard butterfly (54.43, matching his exciting state time). Rockford’s next meet is at home against Grand Haven at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28.
Very pleased with the outcome of the Saturday, Feb. 7, Freshman/Sophomore Swim/Dive Invitational, Rockford’s coaching staff couldn’t voice enough praises about their team. Rockford placed second behind powerhouse Zeeland, out of eight West Michigan schools (Byron Center, East Kentwood, Grand Haven, Grandville, Jenison and West Ottawa) competing in this event hosted by Grandville. “I couldn’t be more proud of the guys,” said head coach Tom Parks. “Many of them swam their personal bests.” The results of this invitational exhibit Rockford’s extreme competitiveness for several years to come. Of the 12 events, the Rams placed at least once, and sometimes twice or three times, in 10 of them and brought home 23 medals. Many of the events had more than 35 participants vying for a top spot, but only the first eight winners in individual events and the leading three teams in relays won medals. The Rams who brought home “hardware” were sophomores Ben Fredrickson (first, second and two fifth places), Jared Martella (one eighth place), LJ McCauley (one fifth place), Tim Newberger (two seventh places), Kurt Plaggemars (one eighth place) and Jeff Schmitt (first, second, fifth and seventh), and freshmen Eric Chisholm (one first place), Josh Travis (two second places and one fourth), Bryan Wasberg (three first places and one second) and Harrison Webb (fourth and sixth). Other swimmers who earned points for the team were sophomore Dominick Sheridan and freshmen Ben Pitts, Cam Cross, Daniel Newberger and Alex Savage. “Everybody worked really hard. It was a good meet. But look out next year Zeeland!” said freshman Allyn Kinney. Medal winners are as follows: 200-yard medley relay – Ben Fredrickson, Jeff Schmitt, Josh Travis, Bryan Wasberg (second place) 200-yard IM – Bryan Wasberg (first place); Josh Travis (fourth); Jeff Schmitt (seventh) 50-yard freestyle – Ben Fredrickson (fifth) 1-meter diving – LJ McCauley (fifth); Kurt Plaggemars (eighth) 100-yard butterfly – Ben Fredrickson (fifth) 100-yard freestyle – Harrison Webb (sixth); Tim Newberger (seventh) 500-yard freestyle – Jeff Schmitt (fifth) 200-yard freestyle relay – Eric Chisholm, Ben Fredrickson, Jeff Schmitt, Bryan Wasberg (first) 100-yard backstroke – Josh Travis (second); Harrison Webb (fourth); Tim Newberger (seventh) 100-yard breaststroke – Bryan Wasberg (first); Jared Martella (eighth)