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Grand Haven boys water polo routs rival West Ottawa

Josh VanDyke • Sep 15, 2016 at 12:54 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — After playing five games in two days over the weekend, the Grand Haven boys water polo team got a chance to catch its collective breath over the past three days.

After some rest and recalibration, the squad came out firing on all cylinders Wednesday, sinking crosstown rival West Ottawa, 17-7, at the Grand Haven Aquatic Center.

Mason Fritz scored five goals and added two assists and five steals to lead the Bucs, while Grant Ruster and Joshua Koornneef each added three goals. Ruster also led the team with nine steals and two blocks.

“Mason always sticks out both offensively and defensively,” said Grand Haven coach Bill Hamm. “He’s a master out there. He made his mark in the game in very limited playing time tonight.

“As usual, Grant Ruster and Joshua Koorneef were big for us. We also got some great, smart play from some younger guys, like Eli VandenBrand. We have a lot of guys that are starting to swim more and that’s important.”

Photos from Wednesday’s game

Hamm was especially pleased with their team’s defensive effort on Wednesday.

“We’ve been working a lot on team defense as whole lately,” he added. “We got back (on defense) a lot tonight and really shut them down. We didn’t give them much to work with. We didn’t rely on individual defense as much as we were earlier in the season. We had some guys with a tendency to worry about people who were too far away from the goal, but we cut down on that tonight.”

Junior goalkeeper Matt Beals made nine saves in net for the Bucs and added three steals.

“He’s been solid all year long,” Hamm said of Beals. “He made a lot of nice reads on shooters and made some adjustments on the fly. He also had three steals, which is awesome. He’s had a really great start to the season in his first full stint as a starter.”

Junior Mason Fritz was happy to get the win, but thought the team still has plenty of work on.

“We got the win, so that’s good, especially for our game against a district opponent,” said Fritz. “We still have a lot to improve on, but playing a team like West Ottawa is a good team to play first, because they are a good team with enough competition for us to test ourselves and get to know what we need to improve on for the rest of the season.

“I think our passes need a lot of work. Our team offense as a whole could have been a little smoother, too.”

The proximity between Grand Haven and West Ottawa lends itself for a rivalry, which Fritz feels the Bucs have with numerous local area programs.

“They are the closest team to us, so there’s a rivalry there,” he added. “I would say all the teams in West Michigan, especially in our district, like Hudsonville, West Ottawa and Zeeland, we have a bit of rivalry with.”

Fritz hopes slowing down his shot in the future will help him collect more goals.

“I was a little sloppy up top on my defense and some of my shots were a little off,” he admitted. “I need to work on my accuracy, maybe slow them down a little bit and pinpoint the corners a little more and not rush my shot as much.”

Senior Grant Ruster thought last weekend’s tournament helped prime the team for an important district matchup.

“The tournament this past weekend really got us into game-playing mode,” he said. “West Ottawa is pretty fast as far as swimming goes and they tested us in that area.

“As far as my play, I was trying to stay back on defense more, when I probably should have been more focused on offense. I felt like my passing could have been a little better, too.”

Junior varsity: West Ottawa defeated Grand Haven, 11-9. Jack Hardebeck and Mark Wilgenberg each recorded a hat trick for the Bucs, while Aidan Latchaw added two goals and Matt Fahey added two assists and five steals.

“Mark Wilgenberg had a good game today,” said junior varsity coach Preston Fritz. “Sometimes he can be kind of timid, but today, he came out of his shell a little bit. Matt Fahey was big defensively with five steals.”

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