Their peers have long recognized their superiority in the swimming pool. But on a recent trip to the state capitol, Rockford’s 2010 Michigan Water Polo Association state championship team received recognition of a different sort. The boys were invited to Lansing to meet with Representative Peter MacGregor and his staff on the morning of March 17. The team then sat before the state legislature as the lawmakers honored the team for their accomplishment. The 2010 team won Rockford’s second consecutive state title, their seventh in eight years, and their eighth in 11 years. Seniors Pat Fase, Victor Lima, Jeff Schmitt and Jared Martella will soon be leaving Rockford High School behind. But Coach Dave McWatters and the rest of the team look forward to the challenge of sustaining Rockford water polo’s tradition of excellence in 2011 and beyond.
Rockford High School Boys Water Polo Team
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 […]
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.”