Rockford High School hosted the Michigan Water Polo Association (MWPA) West Region district championships last weekend, and the Rams emerged as West Region East District champs for the seventh straight year. Rockford has not lost a district game since the current postseason format was adopted by the MWPA in 2004. The week began with Jenison visiting Rockford to play for the OK conference championship on Senior Night. Four Ram seniors, Pat Fase, Jared Martella, Jeff Schmitt and exchange student Victor Lima, were honored on this festive night. A highlight of the evening was a stirring a cappella rendition of the national anthem by junior goalie Matt Vermeer. The Wildcats came to town looking for a win and a share of the conference title. “We wanted to come out and play our best,” recalled Schmitt, “because we didn’t want to share the conference title with Jenison. I was especially pumped up knowing this was my last regular season home game.” Schmitt’s energy resulted in two quick goals as Rockford sprinted to a 3-1 first period lead. Jenison closed the gap to 4-3 late in the second period before Schmitt and junior Eric Chisholm each scored in the final minute of the period to give the Rams a 6-3 halftime lead. But the game was too close for comfort, according to Schmitt. “We knew we needed to step it up in the second half, to focus on doing what we do best, and to have fun doing it.” Schmitt’s formula produced the desired results. The Rams exploded for six goals in the third quarter en route to a 14-3 victory and the outright conference championship—their 18th title in a row. Schmitt led all scorers with five goals; sophomore Nick Willison made five steals. The district tournament brought all West Michigan teams to Rockford High School for the weekend. Despite a sluggish start to their first game, the host Rams used their depth and strength to overpower East Grand Rapids 11-1. Junior Alex Savage led a stifling defensive effort, while Chisholm scored four goals. The district finals found the Rams facing rival East Kentwood in a game featuring the two best goalies in Michigan, Rockford senior Pat Fase and Kentwood junior Raheem Brown. Both teams came […]
The West Michigan boys water polo postseason begins this weekend at the Rockford High School pool. The Rams host the two district championships of the Michigan Water Polo Association’s (MWPA) west region. The top four teams in each district will move on to the regional championship. The MWPA west region consists of 10 teams in two districts. The west district comes in seeded as follows: Grand Haven (first), Hudsonville (second), West Ottawa (third), Zeeland (fourth), and Jenison (fifth). In the east district we find Grandville (first), Rockford (second), East Kentwood (third), East Grand Rapids/Catholic Central (fourth), and Portage (fifth). Rockford’s pool will be rocking as players and coaches, as well as families and fans, pull out all the stops for this win-or-go-home portion of the season. Action begins Friday night at 5:00 p.m. and continues throughout the day on Saturday. By virtue of its second seed, Rockford advances directly to the east district semifinals, competing against East Kentwood Saturday morning at 9:15. Eight of the 10 teams will move on to the regionals. For those eight teams, the districts are about jockeying for seeding position. At regionals a team must win its first game to move on to the state championship; the higher seeds from districts play lower seeds in that first game at regionals. With such great competitive balance in the state this year, there is no easy path to a district, regional or state championship. All the top teams have lost multiple games against other top teams. A team’s seeding from districts might provide the edge they need for a run at the state title. The Rams enter the postseason with a 23-11 overall record, having won the OK conference championship despite tough non-conference losses to some of the state’s best teams. They look for a strong showing in the districts as they begin their quest for another state water polo championship. Being in their home pool with supportive fans could make a huge difference.
Early victories over Hudsonville, Troy Athens, and Troy put Rockford in the final four. The three games featured a balanced scoring attack by Rockford—every player contributed at least one goal. The Rams then squared off in the semifinals with rival Ann Arbor Pioneer. Four hard-fought quarters weren’t enough to decide a winner. Neither was a standard shootout. Finally, after several rounds of sudden-death shootout, Pioneer netted the win. East Kentwood then defeated Rockford 8-7 in the consolation game, giving the Rams a fourth-place finish in the tournament. “It was a tough weekend for us,” conceded senior Tyler Manikowski. “But we’re looking to bounce back next week.” Coach Dave McWatters isn’t discouraged by the week’s performance. The Rams suffered one-goal losses to three very good teams. “There are more quality teams in the state this year than ever before,” noted McWatters, “and the top teams are evenly matched. The key will be which team improves the most as the year progresses. I’m hopeful that our young team will pull ahead of some competitors.”